The complaint says that the investigation into the Parkers began when authorities searched the phone of Jessica Watkins, a Champaign County woman facing similar charges in federal court. They said that on her phone there was a contact labeled “Recruit Ben OSRM”.
Authorities said in the complaint that Bennie Parker and Watkins texted each other leading up to the Jan. 6 incident, planning their trip to Washington, D.C. The complaint says the Parkers stayed at the same hotel as Watkins and her co-defendant and fellow Champaign County resident, Donovan Crowl.
The complaint also says video surveillance showed the couple met with Watkins and Crowl on the morning of Jan. 6 in the hotel lobby.
“During the search of Watkin’s cellular phone, the FBI obtained several photographs, including images depicting an individual who appears to be Sandra Parker,” the complaint says. “In one of the photographs outside of the U.S. Capitol, the individual who appears to be Sandra Parker is seen wearing a tactical helmet and goggles, dark sunglasses, a light-colored camouflage jacket and a black backpack. This image also depicts an individual who appears to be Bennie Parker, who is partially in the photo and seen wearing a tactical helmet and goggles. Both are standing next to an individual wearing a tactical vest with “Oath Keepers” emblazoned on it.”
The government says the Oath Keepers are a loosely organized group of militia members who believe “the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights.” Prosecutors have alleged the Watkins, Crowl and Thomas Caldwell, who is charged along with Watkins and Crowl, are associated with the organization. Caldwell has denied that.
Authorities allege photos show Sandra Parker sitting inside the Capitol’s rotunda. In a photo attached to the affidavit, authorities allege that Sandra Parker was near Watkins and Crowl when they were allegedly in the Capitol.
The complaint also says that Watkins and Bennie Parker texted after the incident. It says Watkins asked if the two were OK and then later texted about the ensuing federal investigation. In the texts, authorities said Watkins told Bennie Parker that she thought the FBI was only interested in people who destroyed things and that they shouldn’t worry about the FBI “coming after us.”
A next court date in the Parkers case has not been set. Watkins, however, is due back in court on Tuesday for a hearing about whether she will be released from jail pending trial.