Ray Epps Sr. was so concerned about major violence or terrorism in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, that he showed his son and a friend how to use a tourniquet in the event of a bomb explosion or other disaster, according to FBI records obtained by The Epoch Times.
During an interview with two FBI agents in Utah, Epps’s son—James Ray Epps Jr., 38—said the sobering talk from his father came as the trio was preparing to head to the Ellipse to hear President Donald Trump speak on Jan. 6, 2021.
“‘There’s gonna be a lot of people there. And there’s going to be people that want to hurt people,’” Epps Jr. cited his father as saying. “‘If there’s people that want to hurt people, there’s going to be people that get hurt.
“‘If there’s something that happens, you guys need to know that you need to help each other,’ and he grabs the gauze and he’s, you know, he’s a military man, and he pulled out the tourniquets and says, ‘I want to show you guys how to use this if something happens, you got to help other people.’”
Epps Jr. recounted that conversation in a 40-minute FBI interview on April 13, 2021, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The Epoch Times.
The recording is part of a collection of Epps-related material obtained by the newspaper, including FBI interview summaries, FBI audio recordings, transcripts, videos, and photographs.
Epps Sr., 61, has been at the center of a storm of controversy and speculation since June 2021, when Revolver News profiled him as a provocateur who encouraged people to go into the Capitol.
He was never arrested or charged.
His photo was originally No. 16 on the FBI Jan. 6, 2021, most-wanted page but was later scrubbed from the site without explanation.
Records obtained by The Epoch Times show that Epps Sr. believed there would be a bomb attack on a side street of Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, which prompted him to bring a first-aid kit when he traveled to the city from Arizona.
Epps Sr. told FBI agents in March 2021 that he only came to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, because he wanted to look after his son, who decided to make the trip from his home in Utah with a friend.
“He’s my blood. I didn’t want anything to happen to him,” Epps Sr. told the FBI on March 3, 2021, according to an audio recording of the interview. “So my wife and I decided that I should probably go, so at the last minute we bought a ticket and I went.”
Epps Jr. said before they left their hotel in the early morning of Jan. 6, 2021, his father got out his first-aid kit and told them that they should be prepared to lend assistance that day.
“He’s setting us up to [help] if there’s a bomb or something, you know? That’s normally where it would happen, right? In those big groups of people?” Epps Jr. said before quoting his father. “‘And at that point, the police and military aren’t going to be able to help each other, help you out very quickly. So you got to start helping other people.’
“So it wasn’t like, other people may think he tried to set something up, right? But he’s just there to help. And he tried to teach us how to help others.”
Reached by The Epoch Times on Aug. 19 for comment about his FBI interview, Epps Jr. said, “I’ve answered all the questions that were asked of me, so I’m good.”
Epps Sr. told FBI agents in Phoenix that in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6, 2021, that he “started getting a bad feeling” that calamity could strike.
“I was afraid they were going to set off an explosion on one of the side streets,” he said, according to a recording of the interview. “So we tried to stay in the middle, tried to get there early, tried to stay away from the sides. And if something like that happened, I had a first-aid kit. I could help out.”
FBI agents didn’t press Epps Sr. or his son for more details on the bomb fears. Nor did they ask about the two alleged pipe bombs found outside the Republican and Democratic party headquarters, each just blocks from the Capitol.
The Republican National Committee pipe bomb was placed near the corner of the Capitol Hill Club facing a side street. The devices didn’t detonate, and the FBI hasn’t arrested anyone in those cases.
My ‘Memory Is Not That Good’
Epps Jr.’s story differed in some areas from what his father told the FBI six weeks earlier.
The son said he and a friend arrived in Washington first, arriving on Jan. 4, 2021, because he had a weeklong hotel deal. He initially “hung out until my Dad got there.”
I think he got there the next day or something,” he said.
Epps Sr. told agents that he arrived before his son on Jan. 4, 2021.
“Well, yeah, he got there later. So I rented a car. And I went out to get something to eat. Couldn’t find anything to eat. D.C.’s a place. So I turn around, come back, and pick them up. And then, we went to the hotel.”
The younger Epps told agents that his “memory is not that good.”
“So I don’t want anything used against me if you find something out,” Epps Jr. said. “But we had the hotel room because it came with our package. And we just, we asked the hotel to take him into, in the same room, because there was no hotels … because he was last minute, kind of made that decision to go.”
On the night of Jan. 5, 2021, he said he called his father at the hotel because some fights had broken out in the crowds gathered at Black Lives Matter Plaza in downtown Washington.
“So he was there to kind of calm it down. I kind of stayed in the back because I am young [and] have five little kids. So I just observed,” Epps Jr. said. “He doesn’t have as many responsibilities. So he gets up in there and tries to quiet people down and teach him what we’re there for.”
Videos from the night of Jan. 5, 2021, show Epps Sr. engaging in discussions with Trump supporters and urging them to go into the Capitol the next day.
Epps Sr. shouted to the crowd: “Tomorrow, we need to go into the Capitol. Into the Capitol. Peacefully.”
The crowd then started chanting, “Fed! Fed! Fed! Fed!”
He got into an animated discussion with Tim Gionet, known on social media as “Baked Alaska.” Gionet was charged by federal prosecutors for being in the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count on July 22 and will be sentenced on Jan. 12, 2023.
“That’s not what it’s about,” Epps Sr. told Gionet. “It’s about the Constitution. We’re here to defend the Constitution.
“You’re losing focus … because you’re fighting with me.”
He told the FBI that Gionet was a major instigator in the crowd on Jan. 5, 2021.
“So they go out and try to instigate this stuff. And they try to bring other people in on it, trying to get them going,” Epps Sr. said. “And then they film it. They cut them out. And they get famous because they, you know, he’s a bum.”
He said Gionet “was one of the main ones that was trying to instigate with the police, trying to get it going.”
“[Gionet] was right in their face,” Epps Sr. said. “And I kept trying to tell him, ‘Hey, that’s not what it’s about.’”
The Epoch Times contacted Gionet’s attorney for a reaction to Epps Sr.’s comments but didn’t receive a reply by press time.
In one video, Epps Sr. told podcaster Villain Report that people need to learn their family history and the sacrifices their forebears made for freedom.
“My ancestors came here in the 1600s. Francis and Louise Epps,” he said. “The Appomattox Manor was founded then. That’s where the peace treaty was signed for the Civil War. That stayed in my family until 1979.
“This country means something to me. It means something to everybody here. If everybody does their history, they’ll find those kinds of people in their history.
“We owe it to them to stay free. We owe it to their sacrifices, all the things they did for us to be free. That’s what it’s about.”
Bat and a Hammer
Epps Jr. and his friend got separated from his father at the Ellipse during Trump’s speech. He said he noticed some odd things among members of the crowd around the Ellipse.
“There’d be people walking around, just every once awhile, you get a glimpse of a hammer or a bat and a backpack. And it’s like, what is going on?” he said. “Like there’s men, women, and children here. We’re not here for that. So that was awkward.”
They followed crowds that left the speech to walk to the Capitol. The men first approached the east side, but found no protesters and a long temporary police barricade.
Epps Jr. said they noticed a group of “fully dressed civilians” wearing “combat gear.”
“And they had little orange flags on little markers so they probably [could] tell each other apart,” Epps Jr. said. “I remember looking over, I’m like, ‘Hey, that does not look like they’re part of our group.’ Or they kind of look odd, you know. I don’t know what they’re up to, probably nothing good.”
When they walked over to the west side, Epps Jr. said, there were 3,000 to 4,000 people already there.
He said he helped some older people climb over a half-height stone wall but was concerned that the large crowd was penned in between the wall and the police line far ahead.
“We noticed that there was a line of people in the front that weren’t there to be gentle at all. And they’re kind of fighting with the police. Holy cow, what did we walk into?” Epps Jr. said.
He said he saw his father up at the police line, facing the crowd and trying to keep protesters from lashing out at police.
“I know what he’s doing,” Epps Jr. said. “He’s walking up and down, trying to get people to calm down like, ‘Hey, you’ve gone far enough. This is what you came here for. Don’t. These police officers are on our side.’ You know, just I can hear him.”
‘This Isn’t Going to Look Good’
However, from a distance, the optics might present the wrong impression, Epps Jr. said.
“I sat there, and I thought, ‘Man, Dad, this isn’t gonna look good if somebody takes a picture,'” he said.
Epps Jr. said the front row of agitators was pulling the bike-rack barricades from police and then throwing them back into the crowd.
When rubber bullets began to fly and tear gas made its way back to where he was, he said he decided it was time to leave.
“I felt like I was dying there for a moment,” Epps Jr. said. “And so I just helped as long as I could and I thought, ‘I gotta get out of here. I can’t keep doing this.’”
He said he saw his father was lending aid to a man who collapsed from a seizure. Epps Sr. eventually helped carry the man off the Capitol property so he could get medical help.
Epps Sr. said he was heading away from the Capitol because of the tear gas when he heard a call in the crowd for a medic. He and another man came upon a protester unconscious on the ground.
“I was taking the guy’s pulse. It was very rapid, but he hadn’t, he didn’t breathe for almost two minutes,” Epps Sr. told the FBI. “So we were getting ready to do CPR. And they found out he was a diabetic. And I don’t know, but I think maybe he went down because of the gas, the CS.
“And I don’t know if his body wouldn’t let him breathe. But he was out and … he was being trampled at one point. So we got him up and we started taking him out and telling people, ‘Hey, gang way, we’re trying to get through.’ ”
Video evidence from the west side backs up stories the men told about Epps Sr. trying to deescalate problems when protesters became instigators at the police line. Several times, he confronted agitators and told them to back off or step back from the police line.
A Metropolitan Police Department bodycam captured Epps Sr. chiding one man who was shouting at police.
“They’re not the enemy,” he said. About a minute later, he physically restrained a young man and told him, “Nobody needs to get hurt. Back off, man, just stop.”
At about 1:45 p.m., Epps Sr. asked police, “If I can get them off the steps, we can stay here?”
He started moving people back, including a man taunting police.
“Are you ready to die for this [expletive]?” and “Are you ready to kill?” the man shouted.
Other actions caught on video continue to generate questions, however. At one point, the crowd started passing a giant fabric billboard in a metal frame. The billboard was eventually rammed into the police line. Some protesters who handled the sign are being charged with assault on police.
One video reviewed by The Epoch Times shows Epps Sr. with a hand on the sign helping to pass it along.
Eric Clark of northern Kentucky, who stood next to Epps Sr. at the police line on the west side, said Epps Sr. made a strange statement after learning that Clark had been in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“He says, ‘Semper Fidelis, devil dog, we got to hold this crowd back a little longer, or they’re gonna [expletive] up the plan,’” Clark told The Epoch Times. “Okay, there’s some kind of plan?”
Clark also said he saw Epps Sr. pull a man out of the crowd, and the man and two associates went up along a wall near a staircase and pulled the lid off a utility hatch.
The men removed a long two-by-four piece of lumber; a long, heavy-duty cardboard tube; and a small ladder.
The two-by-four and the cardboard tube were later passed through the crowd outside the Lower West Terrace tunnel.
The tube was used as a battering ram to smash a window adjacent to the tunnel, video shows.
Through his attorney, Epps Sr. denied Clark’s story.
Epps Jr. asked the FBI agents what could be done to offset the damage to his father’s reputation by being placed on the FBI’s Jan. 6, 2021, most-wanted page.
“So what I’d say is, I’m sympathetic to what you’re saying here with your father, if his name was thrown out there and people were saying all kinds of things, and it’s unfortunate,” one of the agents said. “And I think this may be the differentiator on why your approach may have been a better approach that day. Say, ‘I’ve got a job and five kids, and I’m not gonna get in the middle of that.’”