WASHINGTON — A North Carolina man who stormed the U.S. Capitol while free on bail for an attempted murder case pleaded guilty Thursday to attacking police officers with a pole attached to an American flag during the mob's riot.
Matthew Jason Beddingfield, 22, appeared to flash a Nazi salute toward the Capitol after attacking officers trying to protect the building from rioters on Jan. 6, 2021, according to federal prosecutors.
Beddingfield was one of the first rioters to jump over barricades and confront law enforcement at the Capitol’s West Plaza, where he attacked officers with his flagpole and threw a metal rod at police, prosecutors said.
“There is a connection in Beddingfield’s white supremacist views and the physical manifestations thereof and his violent acts,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Murphy wrote in a court filing last year.
U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols is scheduled to sentence Beddingfield on June 22. He pleaded guilty to one felony count of assaulting, resisting or impeding officers, according to the U.S. Attorney's office for the District of Columbia.
Entering the Capitol through the Upper West Terrace door, Beddingfield marched around the building while waving his American flag before thrusting his flagpole at a riot shield during a skirmish between rioters and police, prosecutors said.
“Video evidence shows that Beddingfield actively participated in and was present for much of the violence that initiated the Capitol siege and emboldened the mob,” Murphy wrote.
Prosecutors had sought to keep Beddingfield jailed after his arrest, saying he has a “penchant for matching violent words with violent acts.” A judge ordered his release from custody over a month after his February 2022 arrest.
Several months before the Jan. 6 riot, authorities in Johnston County, North Carolina, arrested Beddingfield and charged him with attempted murder stemming from a December 2019 shooting in a Walmart parking lot.
"From publicly available interviews given by Beddingfield’s father, it seems that from the beginning, there was no dispute that Beddingfield shot his victim, a 17-year-old Hispanic male. The claim appears to be that Beddingfield shot the victim after Beddingfield was robbed," Murphy wrote.
The teenager survived a gunshot wound to his head. Beddingfield pleaded guilty in August 2021 to a lesser charge of assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to two years of probation, according to federal prosecutors. He was arrested again in January 2022 and charged with reckless driving.
Beddingfield is from Middlesex, North Carolina, a town about 30 miles east of Raleigh. Searching his family's home, FBI agents found eight guns and over 2,000 rounds of ammunition.
Images found on Beddingfield's phone included swastikas, Hitler memes, and others glorifying white supremacist ideologies, prosecutors said. Messages on the phone suggest he harbored “deep resentment” toward Black, Hispanic, Native American, and LGBTQ people, according to prosecutors.
“In some of the messages and exchanges,” Murphy wrote, “Beddingfield unabashedly expresses his wish that members of those groups meet a violent end, and in others, he expresses a desire to inflict said violence or death on the same.”
Nearly 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Jan. 6 riot. More than 500 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors. Approximately 400 have been sentenced, with over half getting terms of imprisonment ranging from seven days to 10 years.