How the January 6th riot split one family

Vice had an article about a family that was split apart when the 18-year old son reported their father to the authorities that he had been part of the mob that invaded the Capitol building on January 6th, 2021. He will be the first person to stand trial next month for his role in the events.

On January 5 last year, Guy Reffitt, a member of the Texas Three Percenters militia, packed his AR-15 rifle and a Smith & Wesson pistol into his wife’s car and set off on the 1,300-mile journey from Wylie, Texas, to Washington, D.C.

The next day, armed with the pistol, he attended the “Stop the Steal” rally in front of the White House, then marched with the crowd over to the U.S. Capitol Building, where he allegedly charged at police officers with such force that they had to fire projectiles and use pepper spray to hold him back.

Reffitt, wearing body armor partially covered by a blue jacket and a black motorcycle helmet, was captured on video on a staircase on the West Front of the Capitol. He can be seen holding his hand up as a police officer sprays him in the face. Moments later cameras capture Reffitt, exhausted from battle, flushing out his eyes with a bottle of water.

When he returned to Texas, according to prosecutors, he delivered an ominous threat to his son Jackson, 18, and daughter Peyton, 16, about what would happen if they told anyone what he’d done: “If you turn me in, you’re a traitor, and you know what happens to traitors… Traitors get shot.”

What he didn’t know was that his son had already turned him in.

Jackson had actually tipped off the FBI in December, after becoming concerned about his father’s increasingly radicalized rhetoric, including claims he was “about to do something big.”

Jackson discovered his father was at the Capitol when Reffitt began posting pictures from the insurrection to the family chat group. With the riot still unfolding live on television, Jackson got a call from the FBI, who asked if his father was at the Capitol. Jackson confirmed that he was.

But as a result, his life and his family is in a shambles.

While Guy Reffitt is set to stand trial, and potentially faces decades in prison, the weight of turning him in has fallen heavily on his children and his wife, Nicole. Jackson has left the family home and cut off almost all contact. His sisters Peyton and Sarah, 24, have been forced to defend both their father and brother while their family woes play out in the media, with many platforms seeking to twist the narrative to suit their agenda.

Jackson moved out of the house because of the tension. Reffitt’s wife fully supported her husband’s decision to go to the riot while his two daughters’ loyalties are split between the father and their brother. It is interesting that in this family photo, the son is the only one wearing a mask, suggesting that there was division in other areas as well.

In a letter sent from prison obtained by ProPublica, Reffitt remains unrepentant and boastful, claiming that if they had wanted to overthrow the government, they could have. But if that was not the goal, what was? Just to get attention?

Reffitt saw his actions on Jan. 6 as a critical step in protecting his wife and kids from what he viewed as a decades-long American slide toward “tyranny,” according to his text messages.

Reffitt’s son covertly recorded conversations with his father that have shown up in court filings as evidence that Reffitt came to the Capitol armed and with violent intentions.

“You’ll find out that I had every constitutional right to carry a weapon and take over the Congress, as we tried to do,” he said in one recording, according to a transcript in court files. Jackson Reffitt, 18, has since moved out of the family home and is raising money to support himself and his schooling.

As with the other rioters, he has incriminated himself, eliminating an innocence defense. His boastfulness in prison isn’t going to earn him any sympathy from a judge either and it precludes the other defenses being tried by others, such as “I was stupid”, I was led astray”, and “I am really sorry.” His lawyers and his. family seem to be promoting the idea that he was notoriously boastful and thus his words should not be taken seriously.

The ProPublica article goes on to describe how the 48-year old became drawn into the Three Percenter Militia movement

The Three Percenters, founded in 2008, derive their name from the inaccurate claim that only 3 percent of Americans fought and ultimately overthrew British forces during the American Revolution. The godfather of the movement, Michael Brian Vanderboegh, a veteran of the militia movement, advocated the idea that a similarly-dedicated group of “patriots” could come together and overthrow a modern tyrannical government (notably, the birth of this movement coincided with the election of Barack Obama).

Reffitt, 48, worked most of his adult life on oil rigs, an occupation that took him and sometimes his family around the world, including three years in Malaysia. But when the coronavirus hit in 2020, work dried up and he intensified his political activity, focusing on the Black Lives Matter movement, which he viewed as destructive.

As Reffitt struggled to find work in the spring of 2020, he spent hours watching Fox News and getting angry over the Black Lives Matter protests, his family said. His teenage children supported the movement; Reffitt viewed it as “bullshit,” according to his texts. One argument with his son ended with Reffitt throwing a coffee mug across the room. About a week later, Jackson Reffitt went to march in a BLM rally in Wylie. His father went armed, the family said, standing guard outside the suburb’s Olde City Park.

Around that time, Guy Reffitt was introduced to the Three Percenters, a decentralized anti-government movement.

Nicole Reffitt recalled a “meet and greet” in June, with about 20 members coming to the Reffitt home for a barbecue.

After some awkward small talk, the conversation turned to “what everyone could do,” she said. Who had military experience? Who had a license to carry? Who knew how to stop a bleed? Someone took notes to be sent up the chain of command.

Guy Reffitt was enthralled. Afterwards, he began doing what he called “intel,” doing background checks on new recruits. His wife was relieved he seemed to have a sense of purpose.

In August, Reffitt drove to a BLM demonstration in Mississippi, hoping to surveil a particular activist. The family said that Reffitt intended to place a GPS tracking device on the man’s car. He abandoned the plan when he wasn’t sure he had the right vehicle.

Nicole Reffitt said she was alarmed when she found multiple license plates in the bed of her husband’s pickup truck. She said her husband told her he used them to make sure he wasn’t being tracked. “I was like, ‘What the fuck? What are we doing?'” she said. “He told me to go to work and keep my business to myself.”

After then-President Donald Trump lost his bid for reelection, Guy Reffitt began to sequester himself in the front room of his suburban brick home, glued to Newsmax as it reported theories of how the vote was rigged.

Since the riot, the national movement has disbanded but it is safe to assume that the true believers are looking for a new home and allies.

It is astonishing to me that someone would risk upending his entire life and his family to take part in something that he surely must have known would a futile exercise of violence. Or did he really think that they would succeed and achieve … what exactly? The end game was never clear. At best this was some kind of cosplaying exercise that would disrupt things for a short while. And even that was not for long since the election was certified a few hours later anyway.

However, I can see how this whole thing could have been a huge adrenaline rush for someone who was adrift and looking for some purpose in life and thought that he could be part of something really big.


  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    “… and you know what happens to traitors… Traitors get shot.”

    Lack of self awareness

  2. says


    It has always seemed to me that lack of self-awareness, fascism, racism, etc., all depend on some people’s inability to mentally flip a situation around and imagine how they’d feel if it was reversed. E.g: “if I were a traitor would I be in favor of shooting traitors?” Or “if I hated immigrants what if I were an immigrant?” Etc. That’s always seemed to me to be the most important philosophical tool in the toolbox, and it’s amazing to me that around 1/2 of the humans don’t get it.

  3. brucegee1962 says

    Addendum to Marcus’ addendum @3:

    I agree with what Marcus says above, and would add that it’s particularly important when it comes to politicians. Everyone would be better off if they automatically reversed every politician’s action: would it bother me if a politician I liked wore that tan suit? Or put his feet up on the desk in the oval office? Or, conversely, if a politician I liked tried to overthrow an election, would that bother me or not?

  4. steve oberski says

    Or what if they can see a situation from someone else’s point of view and they just don’t care, the cruelty is a feature, not a side effect.

  5. Holms says

    Reffitt’s wife fully supported her husband’s decision to go to the riot while his two daughters’ loyalties are split between the father and their brother.

    Damn, a grand total of two reasonable people in that family.

    “I was stupid”, I was led astray”, and “I am really sorry.” His lawyers and his. family seem to be promoting the idea that he was notoriously boastful

    It’s funny just how clear a picture this paints of the Trump cult: stupid, gullible braggarts that cry victim when they encounter consequences.

    If they ask me to volunteer for a firing squad for him, I’ll even bring my own gun and ammo.

    Hyperbole much?

  6. jenorafeuer says

    I’ve seen other people giving that article some pushback for being too nice to the rioters, painting them as just ordinary people led astray (the sad part is that this isn’t entirely wrong) while ignoring the real elephant in the room, which is the white supremacy angle. People involved in the Capitol Riot were from all over the country, but apparently one of the better predictors of who got involved was ‘did they live in a county which had previously been almost all white but is now visibly less so based on census counts’.

  7. lanir says

    I think how people get caught up in this is they see it as the best story ever -- one that surrounds them and that they interact with. It’s probably similar to the best experiences you might get with a roleplaying game but without the part where you and your friends sign off or go home at the end. As long as they get to focus on the parts they want to and avoid the drudgery where real life conflicts with it, they’re just sinking further in. Doesn’t matter if the details they focus on are monotonous drugery or not, as long as they get to choose them. At some point, they may wake up about what’s going on but if they’ve sunk enough time and effort into the idea first, they’ll just keep going with it. I feel like it’s all about how long you get to focus on the big picture goals and treat it like you’re acting out a movie before you get dragged back to reality. That’s why a few words from a friend to interject some sanity are so important even if they don’t appear to do anything at the time.*

    One can hope that the act of aiming a gun at his family would have been enough to dispel the story and snap him back to reality but since he’s still spouting BS in jail which is clearly not in his best interest… it’s almost certainly best that no one got to find out.

    * I knew someone decades ago who suggested they were aware of where some explosives could be found. They also suggested that a particular cause might be benefited if the opposite side of that issue happened to have an “accident” involving this person, a truck, and those explosives. This was decades ago so nothing relevant to now. I suggested several problems with this that would be obvious to anyone not wrapped up in a vigilante fantasy. Not sure if my words were the deciding factor and I’ll probably never know. But it couldn’t hurt and I’ve neither heard nor seen anything to suggest this person was radicalized since. Last I was aware, they were quite firmly grounded in the muddy, unsatisfying world we live in and had left fantastic fairy tales far behind.

  8. says

    so you’re not any better than Reffitt.

    You want to equivocate a (presumably) state-sanctioned execution with treason? You’re a fucking idiot.

    All that said, I never said I was any better or worse than anyone. Anything I would or would not do would be based entirely on my own beliefs and decisions -- absolutely none of which give a fuck what you think.

  9. Holms says

    #11 Marcus
    You actually want to kill people? Oh, turns out you’re a vile man then.

    Apparently killing someone is fine if the state sanctions it. When the person has politics you dislike, suddenly you aren’t just pro-capital punishment, you even want to pull the trigger!

  10. Deepak Shetty says

    all depend on some people’s inability to mentally flip a situation around and imagine how they’d feel if it was reversed

    How does this work in general ? Right now you think that the Jan 6th rioters are traitors -- But if you flipped it around and imagined
    you were a right wing nutcase with right wing beliefs would you sympathize with the Jan 6th rioters ? Sure you would , by definition!

  11. John Morales says

    Deepak, indeed. Once upon a time, I too might have remarked on the obvious.

    More to the point, it can be the case that someone can flip it around, but still shrug.

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