How the FBI used Facebook, GPS to catch Fenton man charged in Capitol riot

Missouri

WASHINGTON – Joshua Dressel of Fenton, Missouri was arraigned earlier this week for allegedly entering the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as part of a riot or insurrection to halt the certification of the 2020 presidential election results.

Charging documents identify just how federal investigators were able to identify and track Dressel and tie him to the events of Jan. 6.

In a federal indictment, Dressel was charged with trespassing, picketing, violent entry, and disorderly conduct. If convicted on all counts, he faces up to four years in federal prison and fines totaling $210,000.

Dressel is the fifth person from the St. Louis area to be charged in connection with the Jan. 6 violence at the U.S. Capitol.

The statement of facts, penned by a member of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force Squad in St. Louis, lays out the basic timeline of the events of Jan. 6. Around 2 p.m. that day, a mob had forced its way into the Capitol. By 2:20 p.m., members of the House of Representatives and Senate, including Vice President Mike Pence, were evacuated from the chambers. The joint session of Congress reconvened that evening and ultimately certified the election results.

On Jan. 7, the FBI received a tip that Joshua Dressel had been involved in the breach of the Capitol. The tipster (Tipster 1) sent the FBI a picture taken from a TV broadcast appearing to identify Dressel. The tipster also sent a video clip of the broadcast and stated Dressel is in the frame at the 13-second mark. The person identified as Dressel can also be seen at the 20-second mark.

(Courtesy: U.S. Department of Justice)

This tipster told the FBI that they watched a live-stream video from Dressel’s Facebook page that appeared to be taken from inside the Capitol on Jan. 6. By the time the FBI interviewed the tipster, Dressel’s Facebook account had been deleted, preventing the FBI from reviewing said video.

Federal investigators then reviewed surveillance video from inside the Capitol. That video appears to show Dressel enter the Capitol Building from the Senate Wing door at 2:14 p.m. and then enter the Capitol Crypt through the north corridor. This person remained in the crypt area from 2:25 p.m. to 2:34 p.m.

Meanwhile, a second tipster (Tipster 2) contacted authorities to report Dressel’s involvement with the Capitol riot. During an interview with the FBI, Tipster 2 identified Dressel as the man seen in the Capitol surveillance video.

Tipster 1 provided investigators with a phone number for Dressel’s mobile device. The FBI obtained records from Facebook showing an account associated with that device. That account was created on Jan. 14, 2007, and deleted on Feb. 7, 2021.

Facebook records show that between Dec. 20, 2020, and Jan. 15, 2021, there were three IP addresses used to log onto that account. One of the logins, which happened Jan. 6 at 9:24 p.m., was to an IP address associated with Landmark, Virginia, which is approximately 11 miles from Washington, D.C.

Additional records obtained by Facebook via a court-approved warrant reveal Dressel confirmed his presence inside the Capitol with another Facebook user during a chat on the Messenger app. It has been included below with timestamps indicating when the messages were sent.

Facebook User 1: Good job today!!!! [5:41 p.m.]

DRESSEL: First 20 people or so to break into the Capitol [5:45 p.m.]

Facebook User 1: You’re a ******* beauty!!!!!! Was there antifa ***** in there? [5:50-5:51 p.m.]

DRESSEL: Yes [5:52 p.m.]

* * *

Facebook User 1: You still out on the streets? [5:57 p.m.]

DRESSEL: Just now leaving. [6:00 p.m.]

Facebook User 1: Will yas be back tomorrow? [6:01 p.m.]

DRESSEL: Yes [6:02 p.m.]

Facebook User 1: I have so many questions hahaha [6:02 p.m.]

DRESSEL: Haha [6:02 p.m.]

Facebook User 1: You guys are true patriots!!!! Should be ******* proud of yourselves. [6:02 p.m.]

DRESSEL: Thanks. Love ya brother! [6:27 p.m.]

Facebook User 1: Now they’re resuming the electoral count. After the curfew and everyone leaves. Some of these republican senators better reject it. [7:08 p.m.]

DRESSEL: These mother *******! [7:08 p.m.]

Facebook User 1: It’s unbelievable. I can only imagine how you furious you guys are. I’m livid and I’m Canadian. [7:11 p.m.]

DRESSEL: Dude this shit is ******* outrageous. It’s crazy, swamp is larger [7:12 p.m.]

Courtesy U.S. Department of Justice

Dressel and the other person in the chat discussed a video purporting to show Dressel in the Capitol. It is unclear if this is the same live-stream video Tipster 1 had referred to when speaking with federal investigators.

Facebook User 1: Just went to show the wife the video of you guys in the capitol. I see ya deleted it. Smart move lol [7:17 p.m.]

DRESSEL: Lol I’m proud to say I was a voice of reason in there trying to stop the crazy **** and calm things down [7:22-7:23p.m.]

Facebook User 1: Im sure ya were. I was going to tell you ya should delete it. Don’t give them any more notice to come and find you once they look at the cctv tapes inside the capitol. I gotta say. It’s pretty ******* rad that you were there. I hate that the snakes are back in there now trying to resume the count after all the protestors were pushed out and curfew was set. Trying to sneak the steak in the cover of night. ******* cowards. [7:27 p.m.] 

Courtesy U.S. Department of Justice

The records of Dressel’s Facebook account did not include the video mentioned above.

In addition to Facebook, the FBI served a search warrant to Google for a second mobile device allegedly tied to Dressel. This phone was traced to the Capitol through a combination of GPS data, WiFi access points, and Bluetooth beacons.

Google assigns a “maps display radius” for each location data point sent from a phone or device. Google estimates its location is accurate to within 100 feet and assigns a radius to said data point.

According to federal prosecutors, those Google records show the second mobile device was at least partially within the U.S. Capitol between 2:18 p.m. and 4:12 p.m. on Jan. 6, in locations corresponding with Dressel’s location on the premises.

The FBI found that the phone number on the second device is registered to somebody who isn’t Dressel and whom the FBI hasn’t been able to identify as a living person. However, this person’s listed business is a company owned or operated by Dressel’s brother. The contact person on this phone number is a woman who shares an address with Dressel’s brother. The FBI contacted both the woman and Dressel’s brother and determined neither one of them was present inside the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Therefore, federal investigators believe Dressel had this second device and phone number with him on Jan. 6 even though the phone and account are not registered in his name.

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