A Donald Trump supporter charged with firing a gun outside the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack was ordered detained by a federal judge in Chicago on Wednesday after prosecutors argued his conduct was “mind-numbingly dangerous” and no conditions of his release could guarantee public safety.

John Banuelos was publicly identified in an NBC News story in February 2022, but it wasn’t until last month that another Jan. 6 rioter published video footage that appeared to show Banuelos firing the weapon that was seen in his waistband.

FBI special agents contacted Banuelos after he was publicly identified in 2022 to ask “about his claims that he went inside the Capitol,” according to a government detention memo. Banuelos denied that he went inside the Capitol before he “hung up and then called agents making incoherent sentences saying people were trying to trick him and were messing with his mind,” the government said.

Nearly two years later, in January 2024, the FBI then interviewed Banuelos about social media threats in, but it wasn’t until last month, after footage emerged appearing to show Banuelos firing off two shots outside the Capitol, that the FBI began “monitoring Banuelos’ cellular location data,” prosecutors said.

Judge Beth W. Jantz said during Banuelos’ detention hearing in Chicago on Wednesday that the defendant’s alleged actions were reckless and very serious and endangered law enforcement. Jantz ordered Banuelos detained until his next appearance on March 21 in a federal courthouse in Washington.

John Emanuel Banuelos
John Emanuel Banuelos on Jan. 6, 2021.U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia

A federal prosecutor argued during the detention hearing that Banuelos celebrated and endorsed his conduct in social media posts since Jan. 6, and that he has untreated mental health and substance abuse issues.

In their detention memo, federal prosecutors said the FBI found a BB-gun and a starter pistol in a basement closet when they arrested Banuelos as his mother’s home last week. They noted that the “recovered starter pistol appears to be different than the firearm fired on January 6, 2021,” but that even if Banuelos had used a starter pistol during the attack, that a starter pistol is still a firearm under the relevant statute.

John Emanuel Banuelos
John Emanuel Banuelos on Jan. 6, 2021.U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia

Federal prosecutors referred to Banuelos’ conduct as “mind-numbingly dangerous” and said there were no conditions of release that could protect the community. They noted Banuelos’ extensive criminal history, including a fatal stabbing in Utah in July 2021, months after he was first identified to the FBI. (Banuelos was not charged in that case after he claimed self-defense.)

“As the mob overran officers, Banuelos climbed the scaffolding into view of other rioters, removed the firearm from his waistband, and fired two shots into the air,” prosecutors wrote. “This conduct is mind-numbingly dangerous. Any number of life-threatening events could have transpired, e.g., the threat of an active shooter at the Capitol on January 6 could have triggered a lethal response from law enforcement or a stampede of other rioters. Fortunately, none of these events came to pass, but the fact that no such harm ensued does nothing to mitigate the seriousness of Banuelos’s actions.”

More than 1,300 people have been charged in connection with the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and prosecutors have secured more than 950 convictions to date. While many low-level Jan. 6 defendants have been sentenced to probation, about 500 defendants have been sentenced to periods of incarceration that have ranged from a few days behind bars to 22 years in federal prison.

Banuelos is now among a small fraction of Jan. 6 defendants — roughly two dozen — who are currently being detained pre-trial due to their risk to the community or of flight.

This week, Trump vowed to “Free the January 6 Hostages” as one of his “first acts as your next President” in January 2025, equating the U.S. judicial system with terrorist organizations that engage in hostage-taking. Hours later, Trump clinched the Republican nomination for president.

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