A Marine veteran who is part of a controversial anti-government militia and the centerpiece of various January 6th conspiracies remains aloof, fueling the paranoid drama that the internet feeds off of.
Ray Epps, 60, a veteran of the Marine Corps, has gone back to being a rancher in Arizona. He was located at his Rocking R Farms wedding venue by the Daily Mail. To some, such as at the far-right conspiracy blog Revolver, this has been seen with a great deal of suspicion, given Epps’ somewhat convoluted role in the January 6th riots that saw the world shocked at images of rioters breaking into the American Capitol itself.
The British tabloid reported that when they “arrived at the property in Queen Creek, 30 miles southeast of downtown Phoenix, to give him an opportunity to confront the extreme speculation, he bluntly refused to discuss it.”
“He told us: ‘Get off my property’. As we endeavored to further explain, he repeated: ‘Get off my property,'” the article noted.
Epps was formerly the president of the Arizona chapter of the right-wing militia group Oath Keepers, and there is footage of him speaking to various members of the protesters before the actual attack on the capitol building began. In one video, played before the House Judiciary Committee in October, Epps is seen on January 5th telling people, “I’m going to put it out there. I’m probably going to go to jail for it, OK? Tomorrow, we need to go into the Capitol. Into the Capitol…peacefully.”
There is also footage of him speaking to the assembled crowd on January 6: “OK folks, spread the word. As soon as the president is done speaking, we go to the Capitol, where our problems are.”
This is when chants of “Fed! Fed! Fed!” go up, as clearly some in the crowd believe he is some sort of plant.
Later in the day he approached another man, identified as Ryan Samsel, and said something to him with a hand cupped around Samsel’s ear. The attack began moments later, with Samsel and other rioters suddenly launching themselves at the police barriers and proceeding to the Capitol. Samsel was subsequently arrested and is being held on charges of unlawfully entering the Capitol and assaulting a police officer.
Epps himself, however, never entered the Capitol and explained his reasons to the Arizona Republic: “The only thing that meant is we would go in the doors like everyone else. It was totally, totally wrong the way they went in…I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Instead, he has returned to his ranch in Arizona and has tried to lay low. One of the offered services at his ranch is the Knotty Barn, where people can marry in a rustic Arizona ranch setting, complete with a bridal suite.
This has led to claims from the blog Revolver that he was somehow an FBI plant sent there to incite a riot. Revolver is run by one of Trump’s former speechwriters, Darren Beattie, who was fired in 2018 when he appeared on a panel alongside white supremacists.
While one explanation is that Epps simply got cold feet after seeing the potential trouble he could be getting into, and preferred to have the drama and risk be incurred by others, it hasn’t stopped some from seizing on the theory that he was an FBI plant as part of a plan to frame the former president and his supporters.
Regardless, the sensational internet being what it is, and conspiracy theories being what they are, the rumor mill isn’t likely to die down anytime soon.
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