Oklahoma Man Charged in Assault on AP Photographer in Jan. 6 Breach

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Reporter
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
August 25, 2021 Updated: August 25, 2021

An Oklahoma man has been arrested on federal assault charges for allegedly pushing an Associated Press (AP) photographer over a wall during the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol, authorities said on Tuesday.

Benjamen Scott Burlew, of Miami, Oklahoma, was caught on camera physically assaulting AP photographer John Minchillo, who was on assignment at the Capitol grounds at the time of the incident, according to a court records released by the Justice Department.

The 41-year-old was arrested on Aug. 19 and is charged with federal offenses that include assault in special territorial jurisdiction and acts of physical violence on restricted grounds. He is the second person to be charged with attacking Minchillo.

According to court papers, Burlew was caught on camera yelling at, grabbing, dragging and pushing Minchillo over a low stone wall on the Capitol grounds.

Authorities say Burlew was among several people who attacked Minchillo, who was wearing a helmet-style gas mask and was dragged by another person down the exterior stairs by his lanyard with AP lettering.

At the bottom of the stairs, Burlew and three other people grabbed the photographer and pushed, shoved and dragged him again, authorities said.

The AP photographer landed on his back on the grounds of the west lawn after he was pushed. Burlew allegedly looked over the wall to observe his fall.

Associated Press spokesperson Lauren Easton said it is “deeply troubling when journalists are targeted for simply doing their jobs.”

“These charges are an encouraging sign that those who attacked journalists on Jan. 6 will be held accountable,” she said in an email.

Burlew was indicted on Aug. 20 in the District of Columbia and released from jail on $5,000 bond.

A Pennsylvania man, Alan William Byerly, 54, was also arrested last month on charges for the assault of Minchillo, and on law enforcement officers, according to an FBI indictment.

More than 570 individuals have been arrested in nearly all 50 U.S. states for crimes related to the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol. That includes over 170 individuals charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement, the Justice Department said.

The breach took place during a joint session of Congress when lawmakers met to certify electoral votes submitted by states. The Capitol grounds and building were breached by protestors and some rioters, some of whom wanted to voice their stance against then-Vice President Mike Pence’s refusal to intervene in the certification process. Thousands of peaceful protesters remained outside.

In June, FBI Director Christopher Wray told an oversight hearing held by the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee that the law enforcement agency considered the events that unfolded on Jan. 6 to be an act of “domestic terrorism.” When asked by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) whether the events could be considered an “insurrection,” Wray said it would be inappropriate to describe the breach as such.

“In my role as FBI director, because that’s a term that has legal meaning, I really have to be careful about using words like that,” Wray said, noting that what he says could affect ongoing criminal cases.

Democratic lawmakers have pushed the narrative that the Jan. 6 breach was an “insurrection,” largely during the January impeachment effort against then-President Donald Trump. No one who participated in the breach has been charged with insurrection.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Reporter
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.