The founder of Vets for Trump was arrested on Thursday night outside the vote counting center in Philadelphia for illegally carrying a gun.
Joshua Macias, 42, from Chesapeake, Virginia, and Antonio Lamotta, 61, from the same town, were detained on Thursday night, police in Philadelphia said.
Macias founded Vets for Trump in 2016; Lamotta is a member.
Danielle Outlaw, Philadelphia police commissioner, said at a press conference on Friday that the FBI had been tipped off that individuals were headed from Virginia Beach to Philadelphia with weapons.
They were arrested outside the Philadelphia Convention Center where ballot counting was taking place. Joe Biden has a lead on Donald Trump in the state.
Macias and Lamotta had traveled to Philadelphia in a Hummer filled with ammunition
The Hummer had a sticker supporting QAnon with the ‘when we go 1 we go all’ QAnon slogan
A QAnon hat was visible in the Hummer driven by the two men and one woman
The Hummer was spotted on Thursday night with Virginia plates and containing a rifle
Joshua Macias pictured with his wife Renae, who said on Facebook he was unable to vote
They were told that a man and his mother and another person were traveling to the Philadelphia region to ‘straighten things out’ as vote counting continued.
Philadelphia police at 10:30pm noticed an unattended Hummer with Virginia plates, decorated with stickers promoting the conspiracy theory QAnon, in footage obtained by ABC.
Joshua Macias founded Vets for Trump in 2016
Believers in QAnon think that Trump has been sent to save America from a ‘deep state’ cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles.
Seven minutes later, police officers on bicycle patrol saw the two men and woman, and both the men were armed with handguns.
Macias had a Virginia concealed-carry permit, which is not recognized in Pennsylvania.
LaMotta told officers he did not have a gun permit and was placed under arrest.
The woman with them was not charged.
Police then inspected the Hummer, and found an AR-style rifle along with about 160 rounds of ammunition, said Larry Krasner, the district attorney.
They have been charged with carrying a felony and misdemeanor weapons offenses.
Krasner is requesting that they be held without bail at their arraignment on Friday evening.
‘This alarming incident is still very much under investigation,’ Krasner said.
In a Medium post, Krasner said they were glad that violence had, so far, been prevented.
‘There have been no reported incidents of violence related to the election here this week, and that streak continues thanks to the quick investigative work of the Philadelphia Police,’ he said.
‘I am grateful for the continued and productive collaboration with our partners in law enforcement and city government under never-before-seen circumstances, as we ensure that every vote is counted.’
Lamotta is seen handcuffed on Thursday night in Philadelphia near the convention center
The 61-year-old was seen being taken away in handcuffs, and was held overnight
Philadelphia police officers gather outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center
National Guard members stand guard near Philadelphia City Hall on Thursday night
Members of the National Guard were drafted in during election counting
During Krasner’s news conference at the Convention Center, two bomb threats were called into the Fashion District mall, which partially borders the Convention Center.
A sweep of the area was ordered, and by 3pm nothing suspicious had been located and the all-clear was given.
The Convention Center has been the focus of anger for Trump supporters ever since it emerged that Biden was gaining on Trump in the state, as counting continued.
Security has been stepped up to protect those counting the ballots, and on Thursday night the National Guard were patrolling the area.
Vladimir Lemets, executive director of Vets for Trump, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Macias had traveled to Philadelphia to monitor how the ballots were being counted.
Macias’ wife Renae wrote on Facebook: ‘So I just voted! My husband could not! They said he already turned in his ballot in August when we were traveling and we weren’t even home. Wow!’
She was calm about the situation, however, adding: ‘I’m at peace which ever direction this election goes. May his will be done. Sometimes we can’t understand why things happen the way they do. I know God is for us and that means Trump or Biden, God still will use any situation for his glory!’
Macias’ Twitter feed, however, is full of complaints about electoral fraud and the vote being ‘stolen’.
He retweeted posts saying: ‘Stop the steal!’ and urging that ‘not one illegal vote counted’.
There is no credible evidence of electoral fraud, or illegal voting – despite what the presidents and his allies say.
Lemets said Macias was not looking to cause trouble, and told the paper Macias may have thought his Virginia gun permit was valid in Pennsylvania because Pennsylvania permits are accepted in Virginia, but not vice versa.
‘They just went up there to see if they could be of any assistance and scope out what’s happening,’ Lemets said.
‘These are the most non-hostile guys you can think of.’