Fed raid of Newton County farm tied to Jan. 6 probe

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Federal agents raided the home of a Newton County couple associated with Chris Hill, the leader of a far-right militia, and hauled away cell phones, computers and other electronics as part of the widening investigation into the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, the couple said.

Donnie Hyatt, who lives on a farm about five miles north of Covington, said he was in his car on his long driveway when 40 federal agents in four armored vehicles converged at 7 a.m. Aug. 10 morning to serve a warrant to search the property.

“They had my 11-year-old daughter at gunpoint,” he said. He said his daughter had laser sights trained on her and “is pretty shaken” by the experience. “She still shakes when she talks about it,” he said.

Hyatt said the agents had a warrant, but it was for a sealed investigation and had few details. A spokesman with the FBI declined to comment when contacted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Hyatt and his wife, Annemarie, were among the thousands who attended the Trump rally in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, but he said they were not among those who breached the Capitol.

He said agents seized cell phones, computers, even his daughter’s tablet.

“They took basically every electronic device in my house,” he said.

Hyatt said he believes the election was stolen from Donald Trump and thinks the rioters were acting out of frustration, but he said he did not support entering the Capitol.

“I think it was a really dumb decision, but I understand why they did it,” he said. “I’m still angry about (the election). I’m angry about how I’m being treated.”

He said he and his wife listened to a “scanner” during the Capitol breach but they were not in touch with people inside.

“I don’t even know anybody that knows anybody that went in,” he said.

The Hyatts are associated with the III% Security Force militia and its mercurial leader, Stockbridge resident Chris Hill. Hill took to social media Wednesday with a “red alert” announcing the raid as an overreach of federal authority.

“The roundup has begun. The police state has begun,” he said on his account on a video site called Clapper. Hill has been banned by Facebook, YouTube and other mainstream sites.

“All you have to do is simply stand on American soil and your constitutional rights are trampled, your life is ruined, and you get raided, Weaver style, in front of the family,” he said.

Hill’s reference to “Weaver” is an apparent reference to the 1992 federal raid on the home of self-described white separatist Randy Weaver in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, which resulted in an 11-day standoff and the shooting deaths of his wife and 14-year-old son by federal agents. A U.S. marshal was also killed. Ruby Ridge has since become a touchtone event in the rhetoric of anti-government groups.

Hyatt said he knows Hill and said his wife communicates with Hill frequently, but he said he is not a member of the militia.

Hill has been a regular personality on the far-right fringe for years, often making outlandish statements online and showing up heavily armed to demonstrations. Last year, he and other militia members participated in a long and acrimonious demonstration that drew hundreds of counter protesters from various leftist groups in the streets of Stone Mountain.

Hill did not go to Washington on Jan. 6 but did attend a small protest that day outside the Georgia State Capitol that drew QAnon adherents and a notorious white supremacist activist. Hyatt said an FBI agent who talked to him during the raid told him Hill has “other people do his dirty work for him.”

“I don’t participate (in the militia) for this very reason,” Hyatt said. “I can’t have my life destroyed.”