NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A self-described "hidden patriot" from Nashville, outed on social media as a rioter who invaded the U.S. Senate chambers Wednesday with a weapon and zip-tie handcuffs, was arrested Sunday on federal charges, NewsChannel 5 has learned.
FBI agents took Eric Gavelek Munchel, age 30, into custody on a federal arrest warrant charging him with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. He was booked into a Nashville jail at 2:50 p.m.
Immediately following the riot at the Capitol, intense interest had focused on a number of photograph taken by Getty Images chief photographer Win McNamee. One showed a masked, camouflaged invader in the Senate gallery with a holstered weapon on his right side and the zip-tie handcuffs in his left hand.
Handgun. Zip ties. Punisher logo. pic.twitter.com/GCKHYzwNWe— Radley Balko (@radleybalko) January 7, 2021
That image raised fears that the invaders might have intended to take hostages, although no concrete evidence has emerged to support that theory. There have been reports of handcuffs being stolen from Capitol police storage facilities.
One of the first clues about the man's identity, noted by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, was a Tennessee patch on his chest plate with the "thin blue line" used to show support for police.
The Capitol invader was also wearing a cap with a patch showing an assault rifle over an American flag.
Searching images from the Capitol riot, Internet sleuths spotted the man during the march by Trump supporters to the Capitol. With him was a woman whom some speculated might be his mother.
Another video showed the pair joining a mob in entering the U.S. Capitol through an unlocked door, passing Capitol police who offered no resistance.
Those images then led to a video, livestreamed in the hours after the riot, showing the pair having drinks in the lobby of a Washington, D.C., hotel. The man was still wearing the same camouflage clothing.
One of the interviewers noted that the man had an empty holster on his right side.
"It's just a Taser, but the police came and took it away from me," Munchel said. "They didn't like it because of tonight. They said I couldn't open carry a Taser."
The man described himself as "a hidden patriot ready to jump off."
From there, the crowdsourcing effort led Internet sleuths to Munchel's Facebook page, where his own livestreamed video showed him walking to the Capitol with the same woman and other Trump supporters.
Along the way, they discussed how they might get inside the legislative building.
"I think we could get in there some way," a female voice said.
"It's my house, it's our house -- we paid for that," an unknown man responded.
"Damn straight," the woman interjected.
Social media did an incredible job of piecing together the clues, beginning with the Getty images pic, leading eventually to Munchel’s FB page. pic.twitter.com/pYic0NwyDO— Phil Williams (@NC5PhilWilliams) January 10, 2021
"It's the people's house. We want to go in and be heard," the man added. "If frickin' Mitch McConnell can't speak up for us, I'll speak up for Republicans."
Another man responded, "We're not asking for permission anymore."
Photos on Munchel's Facebook page showed him posing with a gun in front of a television with President Trump on the screen. In the background, the picture shows an identical cap, like the one worn by the Capitol invader, with a patch depicting an assault rifle over the flag.
His photos include one showing him and the woman together in a canoe.
Other photos, uncovered by Internet sleuths, showed Munchel at protests in downtown Nashville with the same "thin blue line" Tennessee patch on his chest.
His Facebook page showed Munchel supported unsuccessful efforts to recall Nashville Mayor John Cooper. He is believed to be employed at a Nashville bar that has opposed Cooper's restriction on bars in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After Munchel became the object of social media speculation, he apparently disabled his Facebook page.
The U.S. Department of Justice also announced agents had also arrested Larry Rendell Brock, of Texas.
Brock was identified as one of the individuals who unlawfully entered the U.S. Capitol wearing a green helmet, green tactical vest with patches, black and camo jacket, and beige pants holding a white flex cuff, which is used by law enforcement to restrain and/or detain subjects, the DOJ said.
The FBI is looking for individuals who may have incited or promoted violence of any kind. Anyone with digital material or tips can call 1-800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324) or submit images or videos at fbi.gov/USCapitol.