PITTSFIELD — Doris Zelno was watching on television last week when a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.
“I saw the news myself and I was thinking, ‘I hope he’s not down there,’” said Zelno, whose son was arrested following Jan. 6 siege. “But sure enough, he was.”
David Lester Ross, 33, of Pittsfield, an Army reservist, was arrested with several others about 7:15 p.m., and court documents list the location of his arrest as the 100 block of First Street NW. He faces two misdemeanor charges, violating the curfew in place in Washington, D.C., at the time and unlawfully entering the U.S. Capitol grounds.
He is apparently the only Massachusetts resident to face legal action so far in connection with the riot, though the Federal Bureau of Investigation said Tuesday the initial misdemeanor cases are only the beginning, as officials undertake a sweeping probe into the events of Jan. 6.
The court documents do not accuse Ross of entering the Capitol building during the siege; he could not be reached for comment despite multiple attempts.
Five people died during the siege on the Capitol, which followed a rally near the White House at which President Donald Trump repeated unfounded claims that the election was stolen from him. He urged supporters to march to the Capitol, where lawmakers were poised to officially count the electoral votes and declare former Vice President Joe Biden the winner.
Zelno, a Democrat, who also lives in Pittsfield, described her son as a big supporter of President Trump and said he had attended a rally in New Hampshire.
“He’s my son first,” she said. “He’s always going to be my son, but we don’t agree on barely anything.”
She said she hadn’t spoken to her son much, but that when she saw him over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, he brought up his unfounded belief that the election was rigged in favor of President-elect Joseph Biden.
“He didn’t think it was a fair thing,” Zelno said. She added that her son has been “hanging out” with another Pittsfield Trump supporter who was involved in the recurring standouts in support of Trump in the Coltsville section of the city last summer.
Ross was arraigned Thursday in D.C. Superior Court then released on personal recognizance with a new court date. A screen grab of video from the court proceedings was captured by a Twitter user who identified themself as part of a group of antifa activists.
In that photo, Ross was seen wearing a T-shirt with a skull and a “III%” symbol, which researcher and professor Arie Perliger said is associated with the anti-government militia group the Three Percenters.
Perliger, the director of Security Studies and professor at UMass Lowell who researches political violence and far-right extremism, said he has been following the arrests made after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
With a nationwide footprint, the Three Percenters — like other militia groups — generally believe that the federal government has been hijacked by agents attempting to destroy American liberties. Three Percenter flags were visible during the siege in D.C., according to reports.
Perlinger said a “significant number” of Massachusetts residents interact and affiliate with far-right extremist anti-government groups, though they generally lack the same degree of organization as is sometimes found in Southern and Midwestern states with looser firearms laws.
“There is a presence, not really in the Boston area, but really more toward Western Mass. and Central Mass.,” he said.
He said such militia groups are heavily invested in recruitment of individuals with security experience, like former military or law enforcement.
Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn said “our intelligence analyst regularly tracks conversations that would be extremist on either extremity.” He noted there has been evidence of militia groups, and there are motorcycle gang members known to have white supremacist beliefs.
With a family tradition of military service, Zelno said she was filled with pride when years ago Ross graduated from boot camp after earning his GED and entered the United States Army Reserve. She said he was honorably discharged after being injured.
She said she did not know whether her son entered the Capitol building last week, and she believed there was no way that he would have traveled to D.C. with intent to participate in anything violent, and would not bring any weapons. She wondered whether he “was hoping that he could make change by being down there.”
“I don’t think he realized what they were going to do. Because he’s never been like that. He’s always been a good kid,” she said. “I’m trying to wrap my head around why he would go down and do something like that.”