Federal prosecutors say a Manheim Township man who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 repeatedly punched a police officer in the head and ripped the body camera off another, later throwing it away in an apparent attempt to get rid of evidence.
Michael J. Lopatic Sr., 57, is charged with assaulting an officer, violent entry and disorderly conduct at the Capitol building and related offenses, according to U.S. District Court filings related to a pretrial detention hearing in Allentown on Tuesday.
A grand jury in Washington indicted him Jan. 29; he was arrested Feb. 3 in Lancaster.
Lopatic, a former Marine, faces a maximum of 21-1/2 years in prison and a $1 million fine. A federal judge ordered that he be kept in custody after government prosecutors argued Lopatic is dangerous and a flight risk.
According to federal prosecutors, Lopatic “sought to impede the certification of the 2020 presidential election by invading the U.S. Capitol. … he and others tried to halt a crucial function of our democratic government.”
An email sent to Lopatic’s federal public defender after business hours Tuesday was not immediately returned. A woman who answered the phone at a number listed for him said she had no comment about his arrest.
In the weeks since the Jan. 6 attack, federal agents have arrested more than 240 people for a range of crimes, from assaulting police officers to breaking and entering the Capitol. Among them are two people from Lancaster County: Tara Coleman, 40, of Strasburg, was charged with unlawful entry and curfew violation. Dakoda Westfall, 23, a 2016 Solanco High School graduate, was charged with curfew violation.
‘There to fight’
Court documents lay out the government’s accusations against Lopatic as follows:
A Metropolitan officer identified as C.M. was stationed at an archway at the Capitol to prevent rioters from entering. The officer saw “thousands of individuals, some of whom were throwing and swinging various objects at the officers.”
C.M. said he saw another officer, identified as B.M., being dragged down the stairs by rioters, where he was “engulfed by the violent mob and assaulted.”
C.M. tried to help, but was stopped by a rioter wearing clothing bearing the insignia of the Three Percenters, “a far-right, anti-government militia group which advocates resistance to the U.S. federal government,” prosecutors wrote. As C.M. tried to push past that person, Lopatic climbed over a barricade and “assaulted C.M. by continuously punching him in the head. At one point, the defendant grabbed C.M. by the head and appeared to hit him with an uppercut …” the documents said.
Lopatic then made his way to B.M. and stole his body camera, the documents said.
“That the defendant had the foresight to traverse an angry mob to take what would have been a crucial piece of evidence in bringing those who attacked the officers – and the Capitol – to justice shows that he was not merely swept up by the passions of the day. Rather, the defendant was there to fight, and he had no intention of being held accountable for his actions,” the documents said.
Prosecutors said Lopatic’s Facebook page indicated his willingness to engage in violence.
In a post on Jan. 1, Lopatic wrote: “Assemble on the capital (sic) January 6th, 2021. United we stand, go forth and we fight” and told a person he would be there.
On Nov. 4, under a Facebook post reading “call to arms,” he wrote: “I was out pheasant hunting today with my buddy. We play a game called head shots. I won. Two clean in air shots with full choke. Heads destroyed. No pellets in bodies. I got a rooster and a hen. I named them Joe and Kamala. True story.”
Many of his Facebook posts express his opposition to abortion.
On. Feb. 2, he posted: ““It wasn’t a riot at the capital (sic) it was a Crusade against baby murderers.”
He also attended the January 2018 March For Life in Washington, where Trump spoke. Lopatic was interviewed by the conservative news site Newsmax for a story on Trump’s Twitter usage: “We knew what we were getting when we voted for him, and, hey, I know I didn’t vote for a saint,” he’s quoted as saying.
According to LNP | LancasterOnline, archives, Lopatic was assaulted in August 2011 after he cleared the last eight crab legs at an all-you-can-eat buffet. His head was gashed and two ribs were broken.
Omar Shabazz Thomas, then a college student, was sentenced to three months of house arrest and a year of probation in the attack on Lopatic, who is 6 feet 4 inches and weighed 240 pounds at the time of the attack.