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Jeffrey Sabol, in a tan jacket and backpack, leans over the lying policeman during the January 6th attack on the US Capitol.
US Department of Justice
A fascinating new report attempts to shed light on the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by investigating a single participant: Jeffrey Sabol, one of several Coloradans federally indicted for what they did on that fateful day. The piece meticulously documents how a seemingly meek geophysicist and divorced father of three, who lived in the idyllic Kittredge community, was radicalized by a steady stream of falsehoods that turned into an obsession that ended in violence.
Bill McCarthy’s “Misinformation and the Jan. 6 Insurrection: When ‘Patriot Warriors’ Were Fed Lies” was released this week by PolitiFact, a nonprofit subsidiary of the Poynter Institute that describes itself as an “impartial fact-checking website.”
The narrative begins at 4:30 p.m. Monday, January 11, when police, responding to a report of erratic driving, pulled up a Nissan Versa near the New York-New Jersey border. In the vehicle they found 51-year-old Sabol, who was “covered in blood, with cuts on his arms and thighs,” writes McCarthy. They also found razor blades used in a suicide attempt and an e-ticket to Switzerland, as well as a teal backpack and light brown Carhartt jacket.
The last two elements were used to identify Sabol as one of the participants in the January 6th invasion of the Capitol. Justice Department documents cited by McCarthy claim that Sabol “raced up the steps of the Capitol, yanked a baton from a dejected officer, pulled off his helmet, and did a maced. Sabol joined other rioters as they dragged a second officer down the stairs. Prosecutors allege that Sabol pushed the officer’s truncheon on the back and helped drag him further into the crowd, where another person hit the officer with a flagpole, an American flag flapping on its end. ”
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The turquoise backpack and light brown jacket can be clearly seen in this video:
What factors drove Sabol to this particular time and place? McCarthy doesn’t find many answers in Sabol’s background. He was born in Utica, New York, and grew up in nearby Waterville, a town of fewer than 2,000 people. His mother was a nurse, his father a science teacher, and he had two siblings: a brother who worked as a lawyer before teaching and a sister who became an Army Colonel despite originally specializing in dentistry.
After graduating from SUNY Cortland, Sabol began his career as a physicist. Among other things, McCarthy reveals, he traveled to military locations around the world to remove duds. In Hawaii he met Shari Stoltz, whom he later married. They raised their family in Colorado and Sabol lived an active lifestyle, playing rugby, camping, climbing, snowboarding and volunteering for an equestrian organization that focused on children.
According to letters sent in after his arrest, Sabol rarely talked about politics at the time, loved “hippie” music by the likes of Dead and Company, and once painted “raw and racist graffiti” near a city stream.
“I never saw any indication that he was any fanatic,” wrote a retired teacher who volunteered at Sabol.
But after the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, Sabol’s personality began to change, says McCarthy. He started emailing the White House and put a sticker saying “Don’t Tread on Me” on his truck. The process reportedly escalated after his divorce from Stoltz in 2011 and his brother’s death in 2014 from a heart attack.
During a court hearing in April, Jon Norris, who was Sabol’s attorney at the time (he has since signed on to another attorney), stated that Sabol “is not particularly political himself until recent events involving” stopping the theft ” was politicized. Now I believe that a few years ago he reached a point in his life when his eldest brother died who was very traumatic for him and he lost one of the anchors in his life and started hearing more politics than he had in the past. And I think that explains why he was motivated enough to come to Washington, DC. ”
After the uprising, Sabol returned to Colorado but appeared concerned about being identified as a rebel. Court documents cited by McCarthy claim that he “fried” some electronic devices in a microwave, moved guns from home to another location, and then flown to Boston to continue on to Switzerland. But before he could get on the second plane, he spotted the police at the airport and fled south in a rental car. On the way he threw his cell phone out of the window and tried to kill himself. Then he was stopped by the police.
During the April hearing, attorney Norris said that Sabol “realizes he was misguided, he was wrong, he was lied to because the election was stolen and the theft stopped”.
Sabol remains in federal custody.