A North Carolina man who stormed the U.S. Capitol while awaiting trial for shooting a teenager in the head was sentenced on Tuesday to more than three years in prison for attacking police officers with a flagpole during the riot.
Matthew Jason Beddingfield, 22, was free on pretrial release for an attempted murder charge in Johnston County, North Carolina, when he joined the riot on Jan. 6, 2021. Outside the Capitol, Beddingfield flashed a Nazi-style salute after attacking police officers with a pole attached to an American flag, according to federal prosecutors.
U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols sentenced Beddingfield to a prison term of three years and two months followed by two years of supervised release, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's office for the District of Columbia.
Prosecutors had recommended a prison sentence of three years and six months for Beddingfield, who pleaded guilty in February to one count of assaulting, resisting or impeding police.
Beddingfield, then 20 and living in Middlesex, North Carolina, traveled to Washington, D.C., with his father on Jan. 6 and attended then-President Donald Trump's “Stop the Steal” rally. Leaving the rally, they separated as they approached the Capitol with a mob of Trump supporters.
On the West Plaza, Beddingfield attacked police officers with a flagpole and threw a piece of the pole at an officer after it broke.
“Beddingfield then faced the Capitol and made a gesture (one that is commonly associated with the Nazis), extending his arm and hand forward and at an upward angle,” a prosecutor wrote in a court filing.
After entering the Capitol, he joined other rioters in attacking a group of police officers in a hallway. Getting hit with a chemical irritant made him retreat. Entering an office for then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Beddingfield washed his eyes in a drinking fountain before he left the building.
In August 2021, Beddingfield pleaded guilty to an assault charge for shooting a teenage boy in a Walmart parking lot in North Carolina. Beddingfield was sentenced to two years of probation for the December 2019 shooting, which the teen survived.
“From publicly available interviews given by Beddingfield’s father, it seems that from the beginning, there was no dispute that Beddingfield shot his victim, a 17-year-old Hispanic male. The claim appears to be that Beddingfield shot the victim after Beddingfield was robbed,” assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Murphy wrote in a filing last year.
An attorney for Beddingfield has said that terms of his pretrial release in the North Carolina case allowed him to travel to Washington for the Jan. 6 rally.
FBI agents found eight guns and over 2,000 rounds of ammunition when they searched Beddingfield's family home. Images found on Beddingfield’s phone included swastikas, Hitler memes and others glorifying white supremacist ideologies, prosecutors said. Messages on the phone suggest he harbored “deep resentment” toward Black, Hispanic, Native American and LGBTQ people, according to prosecutors.
“In some of the messages and exchanges,” Murphy wrote, “Beddingfield unabashedly expresses his wish that members of those groups meet a violent end and in others he expresses a desire to inflict said violence or death on the same.”
About a year after the riot, Beddingfield posted a message on Instagram that said, “I’d like to reclaim America and it is fine if a few of my peoples enemies are ‘hurt’ in the process.”
More than 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. Over 600 of them have pleaded guilty. More than 560 have been sentenced, with over half receiving terms of imprisonment ranging from three days to 18 years.