By MORGAN WINSOR, NICHOLAS COULSON and CATHY BECKER, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — A Texas teenager who alerted federal authorities about his father’s alleged role in the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol says he wants others to know that “it’s OK to come forward.”
“I want people to know how awful this political strain can be on certain people,” Jackson Reffitt, 18, told ABC News’ T.J. Holmes in an interview airing Tuesday on Good Morning America.
“And I feel like I should have to have the voice to tell people that it’s OK to come forward,” he added. “Your moral compass is going to be absolutely just the right thing.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Jackson’s father, Guy Reffitt, at their home in Wylie, Texas, northeast of Dallas, on Jan. 15. He is accused of unlawful entry on Capitol grounds and obstruction of justice.
ABC News has been unable to get in touch with Guy Reffitt, and it was unclear whether he has obtained a lawyer.
Jackson Reffitt told ABC News that he is now in hiding and has cut ties with his family, who he said is upset with him for calling the FBI tip line weeks before the Capitol siege to alert them about his father.
“At first, he was talking down to anyone against his opinion. For example, he would say that liberals wouldn’t survive in this world,” Jackson Reffitt said. “I didn’t know what he was doing online, but I’ve heard what he’s been talking about — he’s been hyping something up. I had no idea what it was, and I’d rather contact authorities than know what was going to happen.”
“I have all these people telling me that it’s my dad’s decision, he did what he did,” he added. “I still feel responsible.”
The FBI would not confirm the tip line call from Jackson Reffitt.
However, an FBI special agent stated in an affidavit obtained by ABC News that the teen did provide information about his father. Jackson Reffitt informed authorities that, on the night of Jan. 8 and the ensuing days, his father told him and other family members that he was among the individuals who “stormed the Capitol” on Jan. 6, that he went to protect the country and brought his gun with him, and that he recorded some of the events on his GoPro camera, which was strapped to his helmet, according to the court documents.
The events on Jan. 6 occurred after President Donald Trump and his allies held a rally earlier that day in Washington, D.C., urging Congress not to certify the results of the November presidential election, in which Trump lost to Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Trump vowed to “never concede” and urged his supporters “to fight,” as he continued to push baseless claims of election fraud.
Crowds of people then made their way to the Capitol steps, pushing through barricades, officers in riot gear and other security measures that were put in place in anticipation of the protest. A violent mob breached the Capitol building, forcing a lockdown with members of Congress holed up inside the chambers. It took hours for law enforcement to clear the building and establish a perimeter around the area. Five people, including a police officer, died during the rampage.
Video of the Jan. 6 siege shows a white man outside the Capitol building wearing a black helmet with what appears to be a GoPro-style camera attached and a blue jacket over what appears to be a black padded or tactical-style vest, according to the court documents. Jackson Reffitt told ABC News that man is his father.
“It’s all over the news,” he said. “You could see him, his blue coat, his helmet, his GoPro, his bulletproof vest.”
Jackson Reffitt said his father was sending him “enthusiastic” text messages while he was there.
“It was pretty surreal to hear him talk as if this was something that is going to save our family,” he said.
According to the court documents, Jackson Reffitt also informed investigators that, on or about Jan. 11, his father stated he had to “erase everything” because the FBI was now watching and that if the son reported him to authorities, he would have no option but to “do what he had to do.” Jackson Reffitt told authorities he understood his father’s statements to be a threat to his life.
According to the court documents, Guy Reffitt’s wife informed investigators that both their son and daughter informed her on Jan. 11 that, during an argument at the house earlier that day when she wasn’t home, Guy Reffitt told them something along the lines of: “If you turn me in, you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors…traitors get shot.”
In a statement obtained by ABC News, Nicole Reffitt said she stands with her family and that Guy Reffitt is a “loving husband, devoted father, loyal friend and passionate patriot.”
“I want it to be clear that no one present during the conversation in question ever felt that they were in any danger or felt like they were being threatened,” Nicole Reffitt said. “Were some annoyed, yes, but they never ever feared for their safety.”
According to court documents, Guy Reffitt’s wife also informed authorities that he is a member of a group related to the so-called Three Percenters, a far-right, paramilitary-style movement that advocates for “defending our country’s founding principles” against government “tyranny.” The movement’s name comes from the erroneous belief that only 3% of U.S. colonists fought the British during the American Revolutionary War in the 18th century.
In the statement to ABC News, Nicole Reffitt said their “home welcomes all people of all colors, faiths, beliefs and opinions.”
Speaking to ABC News, Jackson Reffitt said he doesn’t believe his father would actually hurt or kill him.
“I think the way he’s been manipulated into thinking, by these extremist groups and what’s been fed to him, was worrying enough that I don’t know what he was going to do next,” he said.
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