Former Olympic swimmer and gold medalist Klete Keller has been spotted among the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, roughly 13 years after he last championed the country on the world stage.
Several former teammates and coaches have identified Keller from video captured inside the U.S. Capitol Rotunda during the attack, which played out after U.S. President Donald Trump riled up a crowd of his supporters with false claims and conspiracy theories of election fraud.
Keller, who won two gold medals for the U.S. at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, appeared to be among those who rejected the reality of Trump’s loss last week.
At six feet, six inches tall, Keller can be seen towering over a melee between Capitol Police and Trump supporters inside the Capitol’s Rotunda, in a video captured by the conservative Townhall Media site. Keller was wearing a Team USA jacket at the riot.
SwimSwam, a swimming-focused news site, first reported Keller’s presence at the riot, citing “at least a dozen people within the sport” who immediately recognized him. Multiple sources have also identified him to the Washington Post and the New York Times.
The site also highlighted Keller’s jacket, which sported an Olympic patch and the letters “USA” across the back. The jacket appears to be from the 2018 Winter Games, in which Keller did not compete.
“We were not aware of this and cannot confirm its accuracy,” a spokesperson for USA Swimming told the Washington Post.
“We respect private individuals’ and groups’ rights to peacefully protest but in no way condone the actions taken by those at the Capitol last week.”
Hoff & Leigh, the Colorado-based real estate firm where Keller has been working, removed his name from the website on Monday. The company said Keller had resigned on Tuesday.
“Hoff & Leigh support the right of free speech and lawful protest, but we cannot condone actions that violate the rule of law,” the firm said in a statement.
An archived version of Hoff & Leigh’s website lists Keller as a broker associated with three years of experience.
Keller, 38, has deleted his social media accounts and did not respond to requests for comment from the Times, the Post and several other news outlets.
The Post reports that Keller had a long history of posting supportive messages about Trump.
Keller can be seen standing around in the videos posted by Townhall Media from the Rotunda. No footage has surfaced — as of this writing — of him participating in violence.
Trump supporters fought back after Capitol Police moved in to retake the Rotunda. pic.twitter.com/4e7mNyqWZy
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) January 6, 2021
Keller represented the United States at the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Summer Games.
He won two gold medals as part of relay teams with Michael Phelps, and also captured a silver and two bronze in the pool during his Olympic career.
The FBI and the U.S. Justice Department have vowed to aggressively seek out those who participated in the Capitol attack, which resulted in five deaths, including one Capitol Police officer.
U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin announced a raft of misdemeanour charges for dozens of rioters on Tuesday, and suggested that more serious charges of sedition are still in the works.
“This is only the beginning,” Sherwin said. “We’re going to focus on the most significant charges as a deterrent because, regardless if it was just a trespass in the Capitol or if someone planted a pipe bomb, you will be charged and you will be found.”
Internet sleuths have been crowdsourcing identities and reporting them to the FBI since the attack occurred.
The gathering brought together a wide range of far-right groups, including white supremacists, neo-Nazis, the Proud Boys and believers in QAnon, the fantastical hoax that imagines Trump as a warrior for God against a deep-state cabal of cannibalistic pedophiles.
Trump faces impeachment for his role in inciting the mob, after he told the rioters to be “strong” and urged them to march on the Capitol immediately before they did so on Jan. 6.
He also hailed the rioters as “very special” and said “we love you” in a message immediately after the violence.
The president said his pre-riot speech was “totally appropriate” on Tuesday.
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