A year after an assault on the U.S. Capitol, two men from Gainesville and Dawsonville face federal charges for crimes connected to the Jan. 6 event.
Benjamin Henry Torre, of Dawsonville, and Ronald Vincent Loehrke, of Gainesville, were two of more than 700 Americans charged for their alleged roles in the Capitol riot.
On Feb. 22, Torre, who was 23 when he was arrested, was accused of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, entering and remaining in certain rooms in the Capitol building, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.
On Dec. 3, Loehrke was charged with obstruction of law enforcement during a civil disorder, unlawful entry on restricted buildings or grounds and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Loehrke, 30, was granted a $10,000 bond and released, while Torre was released on a $20,000 bond.
‘Caught up in the moment’
A tipster sent an email Jan. 14 to the FBI identifying Torre as a person seen in a “be on the lookout” flier created by law enforcement.
According to an affidavit filed by an FBI agent, Torre admitted to the FBI agent during a Jan. 21, 2021, interview that he entered the U.S. Capitol building.
“Torre stated that he drove to Washington, D.C., with his family, including his parents, on Jan. 4, 2021,” according to the FBI affidavit. “According to Torre, he did not go to the rally as part of any group, but because he is a ‘patriot.’ Torre stated that he attended the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally, during which he heard President (Donald) Trump tell the crowd to ‘peacefully march to the Capitol.’”
Torre told the FBI he saw people break a window on the west side of the Capitol building, and someone reached through the broken window and opened the door.
“While this happened, someone — possibly Torre — yelled to stop and not break anything,” according to the affidavit.
Torre also reportedly admitted to entering the building through a window that had previously been broken.
“Torre reported that the officers ‘helped us in (the) Capitol,’ in that they did not shout or try to stop them from coming into the Capitol,” according to the FBI affidavit.
After walking through an office and expressing his support for law enforcement, Torre told the FBI that he tried to leave again through the broken window but was instructed by an officer to exit through a doorway.
The FBI identified the office Torre was allegedly in as Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office. Merkley is a Democratic Senator from Oregon.
“Torre claimed that he did not damage any property or engage in violence while inside the building,” according to the FBI’s affidavit. “Torre stated that he got caught up in the moment when he entered the Capitol, and that some day he could tell his children that he was there that day.”
Torre entered a plea of not guilty March 3. He was set for a status conference Oct. 21, but he and the U.S. Attorney’s Office jointly requested a continuance. U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras for the District of Columbia granted the continuance and rescheduled the conference for Jan. 24.
When Torre was charged in February, Lanier Technical College President Tim McDonald confirmed that Torre was a student enrolled in the school’s marine engine technology program.
McDonald said Wednesday, Jan. 5, that Torre earned his diploma.
Torre’s attorney Tony Miles did not return multiple calls for comment this week.
When reached by The Times, one of Torre’s family members said they had no information they wished to share at this time regarding the case.
‘On the front line’
Loehrke originally lived near Seattle but has since moved to the Gainesville area.
Law enforcement started pursuing Loehrke after reviewing cellphone communications with Ethan Nordean, a Proud Boys member also charged in connection to the events on Jan. 6.
According to an FBI agent’s affidavit, Nordean asked Loehrke in late December 2020 if he was coming to D.C. After Loehrke said he would, Nordean told Loehrke that he wanted the Gainesville man “on the front line” with him.
“Loehrke responded with ‘Sounds good man,’ and indicated that he was bringing three ‘Bad mother f—ers’ with him,” according to the affidavit.
As the crowd started to overwhelm the Capitol Police, Loehrke can be seen “helping another individual over a rail perpendicular” to a barricade and then “waving protestors toward the Capitol,” according to the FBI affidavit.
The FBI agent said Loehrke was one of the first to cross the “trampled barricades and into the West Plaza.” He was also near the front of the line formed by Capitol Police officers clad in riot gear, according to photos submitted by the FBI.
Once inside the Capitol, Loehrke was captured on video and photos including “a confrontation with police and inside Sen. Merkley’s office,” according to the affidavit.
Loehrke’s attorney, Thomas Hawker, also did not return calls or an email seeking comment.
The Times tried phone numbers listed on a public database for Loehrke to no avail.
Loehrke, who has not entered a plea, is scheduled for a status hearing on Feb. 15.
What comes next
The possible sentences for the charges vary greatly.
In Loehrke’s case, the charge of obstructing a law enforcement officer carries a maximum five-year prison sentence.
Entering or remaining a restricted building and the disruptive and disorderly conduct charges, which both men face, has a maximum one-year prison sentence. The remainder of the charges for both men carry a maximum of six months in prison.
This article was originally published in The Gainesville Times, a sister publication of the Dawson County News.