OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has turned a man’s life upside down after raiding his New York home following reports from neighbors that he is a domestic terrorist. The man, 69-year-old Joseph Bolanos, went to the US Capitol to support Trump on Jan. 6 but did not enter the building or participate in the unrest.
Bolanos, described by the New York Post as a “pillar of the community”, and President of his Upper West Side block association for the past 23 years, has been a model citizen who looked after the welfare of his neighbors amidst the lockdowns and even produced a weekly street dance show to support essential workers.
A Red Cross volunteer after the 9/11 attacks, the 69-year-old security consultant once received a police commendation for heroism after saving a woman from being mugged.
Unmarried, and caring for his 94-year-old mother, he was a well-loved character in the quiet residential area.
His life was torn apart after a neighbor reported him for attending the rally in Washington DC on Jan. 6. Innocent of the accusation that he participated in the riot, Bolanos was blocks away from the action at the JW Marriott hotel when hundreds of people amassed inside the Capitol building.
Regardless of his innocence, Bolanos was nonetheless raided in February by the FBI’s counter-terrorism task force. He was reportedly handcuffed and did perp walk in his neighborhood and detained for three hours while his apartment was flipped inside-out and all his electronic devices confiscated. Months later, Bolanos has yet to face a criminal charge, but he has not had his property returned, and now his neighbors have turned on him.
“It’s destroyed my reputation,” he told the New York Post. “I’m not a violent invader … I do not condone the criminality and violence on [Jan. 6] whatsoever.”
According to Bolanos, he was raided because the FBI received a tip to the Jan. 6 hotline from a neighbor who overheard him allegedly “boasting” about being in DC on Jan. 6. The agent allegedly called Bolanos on the Sunday after the riot and left a message, to which he responded. Bolanos did not hear back from the FBI.
Weeks later, four FBI agents arrived at his mother’s house, where he was staying, unannounced and interviewed him. They asked him if he was a member of extremist organizations like BLM, Antifa, or the Proud Boys. He explained that he went to Washington on Jan. 6 and arrived at the Ellipse, where Trump gave his speech, to meet a friend who had flown in from California to attend the event.
Bolanos, a registered Democrat, told the Post that he supports Trump’s policies but was never a hardcore fan. He filmed the peaceful crowd at the Ellipse, describing it as a “political Woodstock.”
Following the speech, he made his way back to the hotel and arrived at the same time the Capitol barricades were breached. He was able to produce to the New York Post timestamps of photographs he’d taken at the time the unrest was happening in the halls of Congress.
The New York Post reports:
That’s where they were when the Capitol barricades were breached at 12:57 p.m. Bolanos has time stamps on photographs he took in the hotel to prove it. One inside the room was taken at 1:41 p.m. Another out the window of the street below was taken at 1:45 p.m. Another photo was taken at 2:04 p.m. inside a hotel elevator. He says that is when they decided to head back to the Capitol to see what had happened with the Electoral College count.
Bolanos videotaped the scene as they walked slowly down Pennsylvania Avenue. They were still about a mile away at 2:12 p.m., when invaders smashed windows and stormed the Capitol.
Following that, Bolanos made his way to the US Capitol with his friends, where they stood on the lawn outside the building some 400 feet from the wall, too far away from the action. He said he could see some people scaling the wall in the distance but couldn’t really make out what was happening.
According to the Post, Bolanos told the FBI agents of all this and gave them videos of his presence in DC and said he’d be able to produce more footage from a camera at his apartment.
The very next week, FBI agents raided his mother’s apartment, where he was staying, with “about 10 tactical police soldiers and one is pointing a rifle at my head. [They had] a battering ram and a crowbar.” A search warrant had been issued by District Judge Gabriel Gorenstein naming him as the “target subject.” The front door to his empty apartment was also smashed in.
The warrant authorized the federal agents to seize his property as evidence relating to crimes including “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 both apartments, upending drawers, trashing his mother’s bedroom.
Bolanos was arrested and interrogated for hours, and an NBC News crew was even tipped off to film it. NBC quoted sources claiming that charges against him were “imminent.” Those charges never materialized, but his reputation was ruined.
Like thousands of other law-abiding Americans who went to DC, Bolanos was just one of many people who wanted to watch the President speak who’s now had his life turned upside down by nosy neighbors on the prowl for “white supremacists” and “domestic terrorists.”