A Texas man who joined the violent riot at the Capitol building earlier this month warned his son that if he turned him in, the teen would be considered a traitor — and “traitors get shot.”
Little did he know that his son, Jackson Reffitt, had already tipped the F.B.I. off to his father’s threats to do “something big” weeks before the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol building complex that resulted in five deaths, including a Capitol Police officer, according to an F.B.I. affidavit.
“I put my emotions behind me to do what I thought was right.”
“I didn’t know what he was going to do, so I just did anything possible just to be on the safe side,” Reffitt, 18, recently told the New York Times from an undisclosed location, fearing for his own safety. He spoke to the paper using his girlfriend’s phone, he said, because his family had disconnected his own. “I put my emotions behind me to do what I thought was right,” he added.
And he told local outlet Fox4 that, “I would do it again.”
“It was my moral compass … to do what I thought would protect not only my family, but my dad himself,” he said.
The younger Reffitt only learned that his father, Guy W. Reffitt, 48, was going to Washington, D.C. the day before Jan. 6, when then-President Donald Trump had scheduled a rally at the Ellipse in opposition to a joint session of Congress that was certifying the 2020 election results naming Joe Biden as the next commander-in-chief.
He told the Times that he saw the photos and video footage of rioters storming the Capitol complex, and that federal investigators called him during the riot to follow up on the tip that he had sent them earlier. According to court papers, federal authorities saw footage of the elder Reffitt participating in the attack on the Capitol on YouTube and on Fox News. It’s unclear if the F.B.I. had acted on his information before this; Reffitt told the Times that he helped “prove what they were trying to investigate” during the riot.
His father was arrested on Jan. 16, and now faces charges of obstruction of justice and of knowingly entering a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority. What’s more, Guy Reffitt’s wife told investigators after the insurrection that he was a member of the far-right militia group the Three Percenters. F.B.I. agents found an AR-15 rifle and a pistol at his home, and the elder Reffitt said that he had brought the pistol with him to D.C., the Times reported.
The younger Reffitt said he’s not sure whether his dad knows that he’s the one who reported him to the authorities. “I am afraid for him to know,” he said. “Not for my life or anything, but for what he might think.”
His mother and sisters realized that he had tipped the feds off to his father when they saw him giving an interview on CNN to Chris Cuomo, he said.
He later tweeted that his mom and sisters were “absolutely ruined” to learn what he had done.
“It just felt like the right thing, regardless of my emotions and how I felt, and how much I loved my family and my dad. I was worried,” he told Cuomo on the air last week, describing his dad as having been “a lot more … scary” over the past four years.
And he has received so many offers of financial support following that interview that he started a GoFundMe page, which has raised around $105,000 toward a $125,000 goal to help cover his college tuition or housing costs while he remains estranged from his family. “
Still, he told the Times that he was hopeful he could mend the bridge with his father some day. “We’ll get better over time,” he said. “I know we will.”