WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has suspended an agent who was outside the Capitol when a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the building, his lawyer said, in the first known case of authorities examining the conduct of a fellow federal agent during the deadly riot.
The agent, Mark Ibrahim, declined to comment other than to say in a phone interview that he “never entered the building,” when the crowd breached the Capitol on Jan. 6, setting off violence that left five dead.
One of Ibrahim’s lawyers, Gretchen Gaspari, said DEA officials told Ibrahim that they were putting him on leave and suspending his security clearance “because of his presence on Jan. 6.”
She said Ibrahim, who was off duty but carrying his service weapon at the time, was part of the crowd outside the Capitol as Trump supporters stormed the building in a bid to stop Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential election victory.
A DEA spokeswoman declined to comment on Ibrahim’s suspension. He has not been charged with a crime. Officials declined to say whether any other agents were present.
Federal agents have charged more than 300 people so far with taking part in the riot, including several with connections to law enforcement. They include police officers from Texas and Virginia, a former New York City police officer and a retired FBI section chief who prosecutors allege plotted with a militia group to overrun the Capitol.
Gaspari said Ibrahim was outside the Capitol because “it was a historic event.” She said he did not pass a set of metal barricades outside the building that were quickly overrun by the crowd.
While members of the group smashed windows and rampaged through the Capitol, hunting for then-Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress, others fought with police outside, hitting them with flagpoles and dousing them in bear spray.
“We’re walking a line between the First Amendment and insurrectionist behavior,” Gaspari said.
Ibrahim worked in a DEA office in the Los Angeles suburbs. Gaspari said he had turned in his resignation before Jan. 6, but withdrew it before it took effect.
DEA officials learned Ibrahim had been outside the Capitol after he sent photographs from his phone to a group chat of fellow agents. The agency took his weapons and credentials while it decides how to proceed.
John Lavinsky, a spokesman for the Justice Department’s Inspector General, said he could not “confirm or deny the existence of investigations” but that the office was examining the Jan. 6 siege and had asked authorities to notify it about any allegations of misconduct by federal agents.
Reporting by Brad Heath; Additional reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney
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