Victorville gymnasium owner accused in attack on Capitol Hill

A Victorville gymnasium owner known to defy state lockdown orders during the COVID-19 pandemic was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of being part of the violent incursion into the U.S. Capitol by supporters of the former President Trump.

Jacob Lewis faces two crimes: entering the restricted grounds of the Capitol, and violent entry and disorderly conduct. After his arrest at his home on Tuesday morning, a U.S. magistrate authorized Lewis’s release on $ 50,000 bail and asked him to wear an electronic monitor while waiting to appear in court.

Lewis was captured in several photos taken during the Jan.6 attack on Capitol Hill in which Trump supporters stormed the building to prevent Congress from certifying President Biden’s victory over Trump in the November election, according to the criminal complaint. Photos showed him moving through the halls of the building and through the doors of the Senate wing of the building, prosecutors said in court documents.

Two days after the riot, in which five people died, authorities received advice from someone who revealed Lewis had posted videos to Instagram from inside the Capitol. A second tipster then reported that in December Lewis showed them pictures of guns he allegedly owned and made inquiries about how to purchase ammunition, according to court documents. At the time, Lewis warned the person to “watch what happens to the Capitol on January 6,” prosecutors said.

Lewis, 37, has become a well-known figure in circles opposing the strict measures imposed by California Governor Gavin Newsom in an attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus. In May, he reopened his gym at a time when state rules had shut down exercise facilities. Lewis argued that he should be allowed to open because gyms were essential to people’s physical and mental health. His challenge has been featured in several reports.

When questioned by FBI agents on January 15, prosecutors said Lewis admitted he entered the Capitol, but claimed he was never told he could not be allowed to do so, despite the hundreds of police who were stationed around the building and fought to keep the crowds out. Lewis claimed in the interview that he was “escorted” into the building by police and denied being involved in violence, according to a complaint.

Lewis is the last person in Southern California to be accused of participating in the attack on the Capitol. FBI agents have swept through a motley team of figures known locally for their opposition to pandemic orders and their support for Trump. They include an esthetician from Beverly Hills, a concierge doctor from Beverly Hills, an aspiring actor and the grandson of the former mayor of Glendora.

On Friday, FBI agents arrested a Federal Aviation Administration employee who lives in Beaumont for taking part in the siege. Nationally, more than 150 people have been charged in connection with the riot and further charges are expected.

And on Tuesday, in Orange County, FBI agents raided the home of a businessman in Ladera Ranch, known for his efforts to oppose state lockdown orders and for helping to organize pro-Trump rallies after the election. Investigators found an unknown number of weapons during the search, according to a source close to the investigation.

Authorities declined to identify the man, but property records and neighbors identified him as Russ Taylor, an openly conservative activist who has led anti-mask protests and pro-Trump rallies in County D ‘Orange. No arrests were made in connection with the search.

Taylor on Tuesday did not return calls for comment. In an article posted on social media two weeks ago, he admitted to being present at the rally, but denied entering the Capitol. In the post, Taylor also defended Capistrano Unified School District elementary school teacher Kristine Hostetter, who came under close scrutiny after parents complained about seeing footage of ‘she walking on the Capitol.

“Left-wing commies are booming [assault] on American freedoms. I was there with Kris Hostetter. She never entered the Capitol building, ”he wrote. Lewis added that “desperate people make false claims, spread rumors and contact authorities because of their vindictive and toxic behavior.”

“As we approached with the crowd, Kris saw that it was already total chaos, turned around and immediately went back to her hotel room. Not only did we not enter the building, but she never set foot outside Capitol Park.

Times editor Michael Finnegan contributed to this report.

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