A suspect in the U.S. Capitol riot was arrested after allegedly bragging about his involvement in the insurrection to his match on a dating app, who promptly reported him to law enforcement.
Court filings say that exactly one week after the Jan. 6 insurrection, Robert Chapman, 50, told another Bumble user, “I did storm the capitol,” adding, “I made it all the way into Statuary Hall.” The unnamed individual was evidently not impressed.
“We are not a match,” the person wrote, to which he replied, “I suppose not.”
The Bumble user reported Chapman to authorities around Jan. 13, setting off a months-long investigation that culminated in his arrest Thursday in his hometown of Carmel, N.Y.
He faces four charges: two of knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building without lawful authority, and two of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Chapman was released on bail following a virtual appearance before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. He is restricted from traveling to Washington, D.C., with exceptions for legal proceedings, and a pretrial hearing is scheduled for May 19. His attorney, federal defender Benjamin Gold, did not respond to NPR’s request for comment.
The FBI officer who investigated Chapman outlined the case against him in an 11-page “statement of facts.”
Acting on the tip, law enforcement reviewed body camera footage recorded by the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department inside the Capitol building. It located someone who appeared to be Chapman inside Statuary Hall, wearing a two-tone bandanna around his head that seemed to match the one in his Bumble picture.
Investigators compared images of that individual with a photograph of Chapman from New York records of a prior arrest in 2017, and noted the similarities in facial hair — photos show his distinctive sideburns. And after conducting further surveillance, they confirmed Chapman was indeed a New York resident.
They also pursued a digital trail, thanks to another screenshot from the same anonymous tipster. In a Facebook post dated Jan. 7, a woman shared a photo of a man who matches Chapman’s appearance and is wearing the same clothing as the individual from the body camera footage.
The caption reads: “My Dear friend and Brostar Robert made it in the Capitol building at the protest yesterday….Wooo Hooooooooo!!!!”
A user named Robert Erick left a comment on the post, decrying “keyboard warriors.” Investigators determined that Chapman used a Facebook account with that name, and had registered it to a similarly named email address.
The public Facebook account belonging to “Erick” showed several posts that appeared to reference traveling to Washington and storming the Capitol grounds, with one reading, “I’M F***** INSIDE THE CRAPITOL!!”
“I believe that Robert Chapman is the individual who was inside of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and that he is one and the same as the individual who uses the name ‘Robert Erick,’ ” the officer concluded.
Chapman is one of more than 400 individuals facing charges in connection with the Capitol riot, according to an NPR tracker.
Several others have been implicated through dating apps. In fact, Bumble, Tinder and Match started using images circulated from the Capitol grounds to identify and block suspects’ accounts, while some users set out intentionally to find people who said they participated in the riots to gather and pass along evidence.
Romantic partners of alleged rioters have also helped investigators. Memorably, one suspect was turned in by his ex-girlfriend after sending her texts and photos from the insurrection, including one calling her a “moron.”