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US looks to revoke former Rocky Mount police officer’s release after rifle, partially-assembled pipe bomb found at his home

Tuesday’s search wasn’t the first time Thomas Robertson violated the terms of his release, according to the FBI

A former Rocky Mount police officer charged in connection with the riots at the U.S. Capitol may soon be in federal custody.
A former Rocky Mount police officer charged in connection with the riots at the U.S. Capitol may soon be in federal custody.

ROCKY MOUNT, Va. – A former Rocky Mount police officer charged in connection with the riots at the U.S. Capitol may soon be in federal custody.

On Wednesday, the United States filed a motion to have Thomas Robertson detained pending trial for “substantial violations of the terms of his pre-trial release,” according to federal court documents.

Robertson is one of two former Rocky Mount police officers charged in connection with the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Robertson has been indicted on the following charges: obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building, entering and remaining in a restricted building and disorderly conduct in the Capitol

While executing a search warrant at Roberton’s property in Ferrum on Tuesday, authorities said they found a loaded M4 rifle, a partially-assembled pipe bomb and they seized several span cans of ammunition and two boxes of 7.62 ammunition.

While FBI agents found the rifle on his bed, the pipe bomb was located in an out-building.

Agents found a box labeled with a blue piece of [tape] that included the words “Booby Trap.” Inside the box, agents found a metal pipe with two ends caps, with a fuse inserted into a hole that had been drilled into the device; epoxy had been used around the sides of the fuse to secure it. Although this device did not contain explosive powder, such powder was found nearby in the out-building’s reloading station.

United States' Motion to revoke release order for Thomas Robertson

As Robertson was not home at the time of the search, the warrant was served on him at a different location, according to court documents.

Against the advice of the agents, Robertson told them that if the warrant being served on him was related to him buying guns, he had bought them online, but hadn’t yet picked them up.

Authorities already knew about these gun purchases, having previously executed a search warrant on Roberton’s email. Court documents provided details on nine emails related to firearms purchases after he was ordered to relocate any firearms he owned.

The FBI also obtained records from gun purchases that Robertson made after being indicted. Court documents detailed 14 such purchases between April 12 and May 15.

As part of Tuesday’s search warrant, agents also talked with the owner of Tactical Operations Inc., the Federal Firearms License owner in Roanoke where Robertson has 34 firearms waiting for him to pick up. Robertson had previously told the owner that he cannot have guns because of his current bond conditions, according to court documents.

The owner also told the FBI that Robertson had been in his store to handle several of these guns as recently as a week ago, according to court documents.

The motion to revoke Robertson’s release also detailed how during a search on Jan. 19, four days after the court-issued deadline to relocate any firearms in his home, authorities seized eight firearms.

Another example court document show to make the argument that Robertson has “flagrant disregard for the rule of law” is a post that he made on June 10 on Gunbroker.com. In a forum, after posting a screenshot from the Department of Justice showing the charges and other information about the pending Capitol riots cases, he posted the following message:

I’ve said before. They are trying to teach us a lesson. They have. But its definitely not the intended lesson. I have learned that if you peacefully protest than you will be arrested, fired, be put on a no fly list, have your name smeared and address released by the FBI so every loon in the US can send you hate mail.

I have learned very well that if you dip your toe into the Rubicon. . . . cross it. Cross it hard and violent and play for all the marbles.

Robertson's post on Gunbroker.com, according to court documents

In conclusion of the motion, the United States wrote this:

The defendant’s possession of an explosive device and firearms, coupled with his extreme rhetoric advocating for violence indicating no remorse illustrate that the pending charges are unlikely to serve as a deterrent to future violence. For these reasons, the defendant should be detained.

Channing D. Phillips, Acting United States Attorney

Robertson’s next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 3 at 10 a.m. by video.

Stay with 10 News for more on this developing story.

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About the Author:

Jeff Williamson arrived at WSLS 10 in March 2016.