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No local residents implicated in Capitol insurrection, sheriff says

Although some Republican activists from Henderson County attended the Trump rally that ended in an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, none is under investigation for any criminal activity, Sheriff Lowell Griffin said Monday.

“There’s nobody from here, it my understanding, from here locally that attended the rally in Washington that are persons of interest in anything,” Griffin said. “That’s to my knowledge.”
His officers instead are monitoring internet chatter directing threats toward U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who became part of the Capitol riot story when he appeared on the stage before Trump and praised the marchers. “This crowd has some fight in it,” Cawthorn told the president’s supporters. “And I am so thankful for each and every one of you."
Cawthorn’s appearance at the rally, other comments he made since Nov. 3 and his vote against certifying Joe Biden’s election as president have made the freshman Republican a potential target of threats.
“Rep. Cawthorn, with his involvement, although limited, has spurred what we’ve picked up as some vague threats against his office, protests and so forth,” Griffin said. “We’re spending all our time preparing for that and hoping it doesn’t transpire.”
The intelligence came from a joint state-federal task force that shares “information and different internet chatter and so forth,” the sheriff said. “They’ve picked up on some stuff that’s nothing that shows that we’ve got an impending crisis. But it’s enough to make us raise our eyebrows, and because of the location of Madison’s office, because it’s located in the public courthouse, we want to make sure that everybody is safe there regardless.
“We had a small protest of peaceful demonstrators exercising their right showed up at the end of last week," Griffin added, "and we are just committed to making sure that anything that takes place in Henderson County remains peaceful.”
A sheriff Griffin once worked for, George Erwin, recanted his support for Cawthorn after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and said in a BPR News interview that he had changed his mind about serving as Cawthorn’s Hendersonville-based district director.
“Once a word leaves your mouth you can’t take it back in,” Erwin, who served as executive director of the N.C. Association of Police Chiefs after he retired as sheriff, told the Asheville NPR affiliate. “And you can either incite or you can calm with the words you use. And I have seen no calming words.” Erwin’s public divorce of Cawthorn was picked up by The Hill newspaper and other Washington media outlets.
Griffin was not ready to get out “on a political tree limb” and condemn the newly elected Cawthorn, a Henderson County native who is 25.
“Here’s where I’m at,” Griffin said. “Madison holds the office. Madison as we all know is really young, he’s not only young but he’s new in office. I know how that is. Our position that I’m in is to try to build a relationship and maintain a relationship with all the other elected officials because my goal is just to provide the best service that I can to the people of Henderson County. I don’t want right now to get on to any political tree limbs. I still think that even working with the folks in Madison’s office I’m hoping as we move forward that we can accomplish some things that’s going to be really good for Henderson County and really good for Western North Carolina.”

Polk GOP organized bus trip

Cawthorn’s role in the runup to the riot that temporarily halted Congress’s certification of Biden’s election is not the only local connection to gain coverage in the national political press.
Its cheerleading for Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results earned the Polk County Republican Party 30 seconds of fame.
“BUS TRIP to DC … #StoptheSteal. If your passions are running hot and you’re intending to respond to the President’s call for his supporters to descend on DC on Jan 6, LISTEN UP!” the Polk County GOP wrote in a Facebook post that’s now deleted. The Washington Post reported the message in a story Jan. 13 on how organizers had used Facebook to promote the “Save America” rally.
In a post that remains on its website, organizers called on members on Dec. 24 to sign up for the bus trip to the Trump rally.
“Trump's Army is on the March to DC,” the post said. “If you want to involve yourself in something historic, something that will distinguish you from your peers, something that will bring you great personal pride, read on. Engage, engage, and engage again. Critically important to contact members of Congress. ACT NOW, because after Jan 6, 2021, your country, if under BIDEN, will be sold to the Communist Chinese regime, lock, stock and barrel.” Two days later, the party reported that the “bus to DC on Jan. 6 for the rally is almost full.”
WLOS-TV reported after the rally that the charter bus carried 54 Republicans from Polk, Henderson and Transylvania counties to the Trump event.
“We did not see any violence whatsoever," Gene Comiskey, one of the bus trip organizers, told the Asheville TV station. "We only saw people who were enthusiastic and well-behaved and looking after each other, actually.”
Henderson County Republican Party Chair Merry Guy said bus trip was not a Henderson County-sponsored event.

“We were not, not as a party,” she said. “There were people from Henderson County that did go, that’s my understanding. But we didn’t sponsor it.”
“I’m not privy” to the names of local party activists who went, she said. “I don’t think anybody in Henderson County was involved in anything that required law enforcement follow up.”

Flat Rock resident attends rally

A Flat Rock resident who attended the rally, Victor Behoriam, posted a comment on a Hendersonville Lightning story in the days after the rally defending the protesters and describing what he observed as peaceful.
“I’m not saying I was there anymore. I wasn’t there,” Behoriam said before describing in detail what he did and did not see on Jan. 6. “It was comments you’re talking about. I deleted my Facebook account so I don’t know if the comments deleted with it. Given the ridiculousness at how this is being looked at by people I’m not saying nothing to nobody.”
He scoffed at the idea that investigators would want to talk to him.
“Where I was, there was nothing going on," he said. "I was on the wrong side of the building from all the action. I went to capital but I didn’t go on the Capitol grounds. I was on the — what’s it called out there? The mall, with the reflecting pool, which is off the grounds of the Capitol. I said, ‘This looks like trouble, there were too many people here.’ I was worried about getting trampled.”
He said he didn’t breach the lightly guarded outer perimeter, nor engage in any activity that would cause investigators to be interested in interviewing him.
“It was a lie when I wrote that comment. I made it all up,” he said. “I didn’t take any pictures and I wasn’t privy to anything. The whole thing was a scam. The whole thing was B.S. It was like the 1960s or ‘70s, it was like a college sit in protest, that’s why the people were. They wanted to hang banners up. I didn’t even know anything happened until the next day or late that night. I was on train at 4 o’clock so I was way gone by the time anything was even being reported.”
The loudspeakers where he was standing were echoing off the Washington Monument, he said, and he didn't recall hearing Cawthorn speak at all.

“Until the president spoke, everything was kind of garbly unless you were really paying attention or up close,” he said. “And I was having fun just talking to people, you know. ‘Where’d you come from? Cool sign’ — that kind of stuff. It really wasn’t all that exciting. The excitement was at the Capitol and I felt uncomfortable there so I didn’t get too close to it and I definitely wasn’t on their grounds. I stayed way off the grounds.”
Does Behoriam still support President Trump?
“I don’t support anybody,” he said. “I support the country we used to have that we don’t have anymore.”