Joseph Bolanos was a pillar of his group. President of his Upper West Side block affiliation for the previous 23 years, he appeared out for his neighbors throughout the pandemic. He dropped off masks and stored additional heaters in his rent-controlled condo for seniors. He raised morale with a weekly avenue dance to point out his assist for important employees.
A Red Cross volunteer after the 9/11 assaults, the 69-year-old safety guide as soon as acquired a police commendation for heroism after saving a lady from being mugged.
Unmarried, and caring for his 94-year-old mom, he was a well-loved character within the quiet residential space.
But now his neighbors assume he’s a home terrorist.
Yes, he attended then-President Donald Trump’s rally in Washington, DC, on Jan. 6, however he by no means entered the Capitol. He was in a pal’s room on the JW Marriott a 30-minute stroll away when the Capitol breach occurred.
Nonetheless, he was raided in February by the FBI anti-terrorism job pressure, handcuffed, paraded and detained for 3 hours whereas his condo was ransacked and all his gadgets confiscated. Four months later, he hasn’t been charged and doesn’t have his gadgets again, however his neighbors are shunning him, and he’s had two strokes from the stress.
“It’s destroyed my reputation,” he says. “I’m not a violent invader . . . I do not condone the criminality and violence on [Jan. 6] whatsoever.”
The FBI informed Bolanos he was raided due to a tip to the Jan. 6 hotline from a neighbor who mentioned he had overheard him “boasting” about being on the Capitol.
An FBI agent phoned Bolanos the Sunday after the riot and left a message. He returned the decision the following day, however by no means heard again.
At the time he was staying at his mom’s condo in Washington Heights as a result of she had been moved to rehab and he was dealing with the tough resolution of whether or not she ought to transfer into everlasting care.
He informed them he caught a practice to Washington on Jan. 6 and arrived on the Ellipse to fulfill a pal who had flown from California with a girlfriend to look at Trump’s speech. He filmed the group which he described as “friendly, like a political Woodstock.”
Bolanos is a registered Democrat, however calls himself “an independent at heart.” He favored Trump’s insurance policies, however was by no means a Trump fanatic.
He strived to maintain politics out of his management function, realizing his neighbors have been a mix of ultra-progressives and closet conservatives.
Trump’s speech was boring, and the day was chilly and blustery, mentioned Bolanos, so at about 12:40 p.m., he and his pals left early and made the eight-minute trek again to the Marriott.
That’s the place they have been when the Capitol barricades have been breached at 12:57 p.m. Bolanos has time stamps on images he took within the lodge to show it. One contained in the room was taken at 1:41 p.m. Another out the window of the road beneath was taken at 1:45 p.m. Another picture was taken at 2:04 p.m. inside a lodge elevator. He says that’s once they determined to go again to the Capitol to see what had occurred with the Electoral College depend.
Bolanos videotaped the scene as they walked slowly down Pennsylvania Avenue. They have been nonetheless a few mile away at 2:12 p.m., when invaders smashed home windows and stormed the Capitol.
They arrived on the rear of the Capitol at about 2:45 p.m. Unbeknownst to Bolanos, contained in the constructing, Ashli Babbitt has simply been shot. He and his pals stood on a patch of muddy garden about 400 ft from the wall of the Capitol taking images. The riot was throughout.
“There was no hint of violence . . . If you were shooting a movie at that location, you would never know anything had happened.”
No police have been there. The solely dysfunction he remembers seeing was a pile of overturned bike racks.
In the gap he may see individuals climbing a wall of the Capitol. “But I couldn’t process it. I thought why they are climbing it.”
He informed the FBI brokers all of this. He gave them a video compilation of peaceable crowds and informed them he may present extra movies from a digital camera in his condo. They mentioned they might name Monday, however by no means did.
The subsequent Thursday at 6 a.m., he was awoken in his mom’s condo by loud banging. “I opened the door and there’s about 10 tactical police soldiers and one is pointing a rifle at my head. [They had] a battering ram and a crowbar.”
They additionally had a search warrant, issued by District Court Judge Gabriel Gorenstein, which named Bolanos because the “target subject.” The entrance door of his empty condo was being damaged down in a concurrently raid.
The warrant approved the federal brokers to grab his property as proof regarding crimes together with “obstruction of Congress,” “civil disorders,” “conspiracy to impede/assault federal agents,” “interstate travel to participate in riot,” and “unlawful entry on restricted buildings or grounds.”
The FBI ransacked each residences, upending drawers, trashing his mom’s bed room.
He was handcuffed and brought outdoors to an FBI automobile to be interrogated for 4 hours.
An NBC digital camera crew had been tipped off and was there to movie his disgrace. NBC quoted “sources” saying prices in opposition to him have been imminent. The story can be repeated in two native publications.
He began feeling sick at about 11 a.m., so the FBI referred to as an ambulance. When he was admitted to Mt. Sinai, his blood stress was by way of the roof and he had suffered a stroke.
The neighbors he had helped all these years have turned their backs on him. One girl who cooked him a pleasant dinner final Thanksgiving wrote him a nasty be aware: “I hope Antifa gets you.”
Bolanos is bereft. He has not been charged, and insists he has dedicated no crime.
But like hundreds of different law-abiding Americans who went to Washington on Jan. 6 to see the president converse, his life has been ruined by a hysterical witch-hunt for phantom home terrorists.
The violence that day was horrible and people accountable are being prosecuted to the complete extent of the legislation, as they need to be. But the overkill stinks of the type of political purge you see in Communist China.