ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- An insurrection. A violent mob. The worst attack on the Capitol. What happened in Washington DC on January 6 has been called many things and is still top of mind as Congress decides whether to create a commission to investigate it.
Among those who entered the Capitol that day were neighbors, friends, and co-workers of people who live right here in our area.
Three people, William Merry, Paul Westover and Emily Hernandez, all from the St. Louis area, were seen proudly holding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's shattered door sign. All are now charged, along with Nicholas Reimler, of Cedar Hill, for being unlawfully in the Capitol that day.
140 Capitol Police officers were injured and significant damage was done outside and inside the Capitol. Nearly 500 people are charged by the Department of Justice, almost all with the help of informants: friends, co-workers and neighbors of the defendant.
“I was looking at the picture and said, 'holy cow, looks like Paul Westover,'” said one person, who asked to remain anonymous, as a neighbor of Westover’s in Lake St. Louis. “I definitely knew that he was a Trumper.” He describes Westover as sometimes intense and forceful. He says he did not hesitate to contact the FBI about him.
“It was an internal attack is the way I look at it, so anyone who recognizes anyone, they are doing their civic duty by letting the authorities know,” said the tipster.
He wasn't alone. Multiple tipsters identified Westover after News 4 aired a story on January 17, according to charging documents which name KMOV. The tipsters say he was easy to identify by his Blues hat, which he was seen wearing in other social media posts.
Federal agents and local law enforcement officers on Thursday were seen at the home of a Lake St. Louis man believed to have taken part in the Capitol riot in Washington D.C. on January 6.
Westover and his attorney have declined to comment. His home was raided by the feds and he's now facing four federal counts.
“It’s still shocking to me to see that people within a mile of our home were willing to go and do that, very much shocking,” said the tipster.
Still, this man is empathetic.
“He chose his own actions that he chose to do, but I think about his family now, it’s going to be more tough for them,” he said.
Westover owns his own business. One commenter on the business' Facebook writing "this company is owned by a man who participated in the terrorist attack on Jan. 6. He should be in jail."
There are mixed feelings about Emily Hernandez from her former teacher in Sullivan, Vivian Whalen.
A Sullivan, Missouri woman is facing five federal charges in connection with the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“She was quiet, really quiet, good student, never got in trouble, that's what I remember,” Whalen said. She condemns others' actions in the Capitol.
"I think like anyone else, that's someone else's property and you don't go in there and destroy it, you don't," Whalen said. Whalen thinks Hernandez was just caught up in the moment.
“I know she wouldn't have thought of any of that for herself, I really do,” Whalen said.
“I have thought about that, maybe it’s because she was a young pretty girl that stood out or if it was that piece of sign she held,” Whalen said.
“Emily is as normal a person as can be. She is as American as apple pie. She is a wholesome young lady,” said defense attorney Ethan Corlija, who represents Hernandez. He says the 21-year-old is not political and only hopped in the car with her Uncle William Merry when invited.
“It wasn’t out of a desire to take part in a political rally, it was to go see the Capitol. She had plans to see the Smithsonian, the Lincoln Memorial,” Corlija said.
FBI officials were able to identify William "Bill" Merry as one of the people seen in footage of the Capitol riot through several tipsters.
Merry, who is not represented by Corlija, declined to talk to News 4 when we reached him at his North County home. Despite facing serious charges Corlija says those iconic images aren't really who Hernandez is.
“People want to say well, that's the image of this movement, she is the poster child of it. I cannot tell you how far that is from the truth. There is not a scintilla of truth to that,” he said.
He also defends Nicholas Reimler who was seen walking the halls of the Capitol wrapped in a Trump flag. Reimler isn’t a member of extremist groups like the Oathkeepers or The Proud Boys, nor are any of the local defendants, says Corlija.
Nicholas Reimler was charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct Friday, as well as entry of a restricted government building, after prosecutors determined he was among those that forcibly entered the U.S. Capitol following a rally for then-President Donald Trump.
“He is just not like that, he is a strong believer in law and order, a strong believer in law and order. Not only that, was raised the right way and is a peaceful person,” said Corlija. “I think they need to put in context, when the evidence comes out, exactly what some of these people are accused of doing,” he said. When asked if Reimler felt remorse, Corlija said he was more bewildered that it came to this.
“Everyone involved likely should have exercised better judgement and in hindsight, would,” Corlija said. He disagrees other defense attorneys, like St. Louis' Al Watkins, who have tried to claim that former President Trump and other elected officials are to blame.
"I don't know the elected officials whipped them up into a frenzy. I think the crowd when they were there, it was easy to get whipped up into a frenzy and get that emotional role going and I think that's what happened," said Corlija.
He likens what happened, he says, to a sporting event.
“If they go to a football game at their college, their team wins the championship and wins the game, a lot of people are going to storm the field and a lot of things happen that shouldn't happen, they don't have a right to be on that field, goal posts get torn down, sometimes people get hurt, and I think that's what took hold,” said Corlija.
But will the feds agree? Each local defendant faces potential prison time, something Corlija says he's hoping to avoid for his clients, even if it means a jury trial. He and other attorneys say discussions with the DOJ are on-going.
“They want it behind them, absolutely behind them, they want to move on, and get on with life,” Corlija said.