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US again pushes to have former Rocky Mount officer detained for violating terms of release

Robertson left a paper trail of firearms, ammo purchases, US claims

The United States is again pushing to have the former Rocky Mount police officer charged in connection with the riots at the U.S. Capitol detained until his trial.

ROCKY MOUNT, Va. – The United States is again pushing to have the former Rocky Mount police officer charged in connection with the riots at the U.S. Capitol detained until his trial.

Thomas 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.

On June 29, authorities said they found a loaded M4 rifle, a partially-assembled pipe bomb, several span cans of ammunition and two boxes of 7.62 ammunition at Robertson’s home while executing a search warrant.

The U.S. then filed a motion to have Robertson detained for “substantial violations of the terms of his pre-trial release” last month, according to federal documents.

Robertson then filed a formal response to the U.S.’s initial motion to have him detained, in which he claimed he did not have any firearms or destructive devices after Feb. 25. In his rebuttal, the defense said that ordering guns does not equate to possession and that the FBI is still investigating whether the items in question were shipped to Robertson’s home.

In Robertson’s response, he also claimed that no destructive devices were found in his home when it was searched on June 29.

On Monday, the U.S. filed a reply to Robertson’s opposition to the government’s initial motion. In the filing, the government again called for Robertson to be detained “because he violated the conditions of his release by possessing firearms and committing new federal firearms offenses.”

Because the defendant has shown utter disregard for the Court’s orders prohibiting his possession of firearms and other weapons, and because he has further flouted his release conditions by violating the federal firearms laws, there is no condition or combination of conditions that will reasonably assure the safety of the community. The Court should detain him pending trial.

United States's response to Robertson's motion

Robertson argued that he didn’t possess any guns or destructive devices after Feb. 25, 2021, and that he didn’t ship any firearms; however, according to the government, Robertson’s claims are not true.

The United States broke down its argument into two parts in Monday’s filing:

1. Robertson violated his release by possessing firearms and a destructive device

Authorities said they found a loaded M4 rifle in Robertson’s bedroom during their search of his property in late June. Robertson claims that this rifle belongs to his son, who authorities said was interviewed during the search.

This photo was provided in the July 12 motion filed by the U.S. government and shows the M4 rifle found in Robertson's bedroom during a search of his property (FBI)

In Robertson’s last filing, he claimed that the M4 belonged to his son who was at his home to retrieve ammunition before going shooting later that day on June 29. In that filing, his son said that he is aware that his father can’t have guns in his possession, and he is willing to submit under oath that the rifle belonged to him.

But according to the U.S. filing, when authorities asked Robertson’s son to gather his belongings, he did so in a separate room from where the M4 was located.

Court documents show that when agents told Robertson’s son to collect any firearms left in the house because they would be seized otherwise, he responded, “yeah, my gun is in the truck. I have a concealed carry permit I can show you guys. It’s in my room.”

Authorities then asked him if the M4 found in Robertson’s bedroom belonged to him, but he declined to provide information to authorities about the gun.

According to court documents, authorities inventoried additional items seized during the June 29 search of Robertson’s home. Those additional items included four silencers, registered to Robertson. Silencers are considered firearms by federal definition.

The images below are of tax paperwork showing that the silencers were registered to Robertson:

This is a photo of a tax document that shows that three silencers found by federal authorities were registered to Robertson (FBI)
This is a photo of a tax document that shows that three silencers found by federal authorities were registered to Robertson (FBI)

The government also addressed Robertson’s claim that he was permitted to have the partially assembled pipe bomb found during the search because it was used as a training device for ALERRT — which stands for Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Respond. Roberston was an instructor for the program.

In its response, the United States said that while it recognizes the use of the device as part of training, it still meets the definition of a destructive device — which he was barred from having in his possession as part of the conditions of his release.

2. Robertson violated his release conditions by committing a federal offense

In Robertson’s response to the U.S.’s initial filing, he argued that didn’t violate the terms of his release because he did not personally “ship or transport” the items discussed.

However, the government argues that “the defendant cannot absolve himself of criminal liability simply by arranging for another person to take steps that the law forbids him to take himself.”

The U.S. goes on to claim that Robertson caused the shipment and transportation in interstate commerce of at least 37 firearms and a significant amount of ammo. According to the government’s motion, Roberston used his email account and at least two websites to broker the sale of multiple firearms following his indictment.

As part of its investigation, the U.S. interviewed the Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) in Roanoke that they said Robertson shipped the firearms to after purchasing them online. As of July 1, the FFL received 37 firearms — totaling an estimated $50,000 spent by Roberston from Jan. 20, 2021 to July 2, 2021 on these firearms alone.

In addition, the FFL told authorities that Robertson had the firearms and handled them in the presence of the FFL during his pretrial release.

The government goes on to argue that Roberston’s ammo purchases, which are also violated under the conditions of his release, were equally as large. One example details the purchase of more than 1,000 armor-piercing rounds from March through May of 2021. On a single day in February, the government claims Robertson ordered 46 M4 magazines, each capable of holding 30 rounds of ammo. The next day, court documents show he ordered 100 more of the same magazines.

10 News has followed this story closely since it began. Here’s a look at all we’ve published, from newest to oldest:


About the Author:

Samantha Smith joined WSLS 10’s award-winning digital team as a digital content producer in July 2018.