BERRYVILLE — Insurrectionist suspect and alleged far-right militia member Thomas Edward Caldwell is active in Clarke County Republican politics.
Caldwell and his wife Sharon are constituents of Del. Dave LaRock, R-Hamilton, who said on Tuesday that he has known them since he took office in 2014.
"Tom is a wonderful man. He and Sharon have been very supportive of me," said LaRock, who represents Virginia's 33rd District, which includes parts of Clarke, Frederick and Loudoun counties. "Tom has served our country in a long and distinguished career in the U.S. military. I think very highly of Tom and Sharon."
LaRock said he was at the Jan. 6 rally in which President Trump urged supporters to "fight like hell" to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's victory. He said he didn't see the Caldwells in the crowd, but noted there were thousands of people there.
LaRock said he saw people invading the Capitol, but didn't see the contingent of eight to 10 people in paramilitary equipment that the FBI says were the Oath Keepers, the militia Thomas Caldwell is allegedly part of. LaRock emphasized he didn't participate in the insurrection.
"I don't know what constitutes the Capitol grounds, but I certainly didn't enter the Capitol," LaRock said. "I walked from the ellipse to the Capitol building, and I don't what the difference between The Ellipse, the [National] Mall and the Capitol grounds are."
LaRock said Thomas Caldwell never told him he was part of the Oath Keepers. Caldwell's criminal complaint describes the group as a "large, but loosely-organized collection of militia who believe that the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights." The Oath Keepers are comprised of current and former police and military members, according to the Virginia Oath Keepers website. Thomas Caldwell is a retired Navy officer, according to a 2019 obituary in The Winchester Star for his father.
The Caldwells were part of a group that asked the Clarke County Board of Supervisors in December of 2019 to defy proposed state gun safety laws that were passed a month later by the legislature, according to the board's meeting minutes. The audience asked the board to become a "Second Amendment sanctuary," a symbolic designation which has no legal force.
In March, the Caldwells were chosen to be delegates to the county's Republican convention in Berryville. Greg Valker, county Republican Party chairman, didn't return calls about the Caldwells on Tuesday.
The probable cause for Caldwell's arrest relies heavily on Facebook posts he allegedly made, according to the complaint, written by FBI Special Agent Robin M. Meriweather.
In a post at 7:47 p.m. on Jan. 6, Caldwell allegedly posted a video on Facebook from inside the Capitol and two minutes later he purportedly boasts about invading it, according to Meriweather.
"Us storming the castle. Please share. Sharon is right with me! I am such an instigator!" the post said. "She was ready for it man! Didn't even mind the tear gas."
On Tuesday, Thomas Caldwell's Facebook page skipped from June 19, 2019, to Jan. 8 of this year. His posts after the insurrection include references to phony allegations of election fraud and insults about Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Caldwell also warns about "FF" at state capitols over the weekend, where small groups of heavily armed pro-Trump militias showed up including in Richmond. FF is an abbreviation for false flag operations in which a group poses as members of a rival group to discredit them. Some Trump supporters have falsely alleged the insurrection was a false flag operation and the insurrectionists weren't really Trump supporters.
No one answered the door at the Caldwell home on Tuesday afternoon, but a sign by a barn said Trump Country.