Jackson Reffitt contacted the FBI a week before his father joined the throng that stormed the U.S. Capitol. His father had mentioned accomplishing “something big,” and Jackson was concerned about what that meant. In any case, the 19-year-old wanted the burden lifted off his shoulders.
Jackson checked his family group chat a few days after alerting the FBI to his father’s remarks and discovered that his father was at the Capitol Hill. Jackson’s younger sister responded in text conversations acquired by Teen Vogue, “dad, please be safe!! You are aware that you are jeopardizing not just your business but ur life.” Guy Reffitt, Jackson’s father, responded, saying, “I have no intentions on throwing it away. I love ALL of you with ALL of my heart and soul. This is for our country and for ALL OF YOU and your kids. God Bless us one and all….”
Guy Reffitt is one of an estimated 710 persons facing federal charges for storming the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, in an apparent effort to destabilize the election that led in Joseph Biden becoming the 46th President of the United States. Rioters allegedly yelled at Capitol Police officers, “Trump sent us!” in response to Donald Trump’s malicious falsehoods about election fraud. Some of the policemen have now filed lawsuits against the former president for his part in fueling the unrest. Four individuals were killed at the Capitol that day, and five more perished in the months that followed, bringing the total to nine.
As the insurrection played out on television, Jackson claims he received a phone call from the FBI requesting him to confirm that his father was at the Capitol, which he confirmed. Jackson claims that while he battled with the concept that his father was involved in an attempted coup against the United States government, his father texted news items to the family group chat along with images of himself at the Capitol. Friends also contacted Jackson, wondering whether the photos they were seeing on TV were truly of his father.
Even today, Jackson says, it’s tough to imagine his father being a part of anything like the insurgency. According to Jackson, once the senior Reffitt went home to Texas, he advised his children against turning him in, warning them that doing so would make them traitors and that “traitors are shot.”
Guy is currently in prison awaiting trial after a court determined that he was too dangerous to the community to be released. He has been charged with a variety of offenses, including obstructing an official procedure, obstructing justice for threatening his children, carrying guns with the aim of deploying them in the assault, and accessing Secret Service-protected premises without legal permission.
Guy bragged about his exploits in a Zoom with the Three Percenters, an antigovernmental militia organization, a few days after the Capitol assault. “I said… I don’t care if [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi’s head is hitting every step while I drag her by her ankles — she’s coming out,” Guy said on Zoom, according to recordings collected by federal agents.
The unexpected happened during the January 6 Capitol riot: hundreds of people stormed into one of the United States’ most powerful buildings, some armed, breaking glass and barging into senators’ offices. Members of Congress were given gas masks and led to a safe area, while Capitol and legislative personnel hid under desks.
Although it has been a year since that hectic day, many of those who were there are still plagued by it. Many families who lost loved ones in the chaos are still picking up the pieces. Some teenagers whose parents took part in the insurgency tell Teen Vogue that they don’t believe their relationships will ever be totally restored.
It’s strange for Jackson to look back on his upbringing through the perspective of who his father has become. “He used to be one of the best dads ever,” he says. “He made me the man I am today. He taught me to be honest, not to steal, all that cliché stuff. I believe he brought me up to do what I did.”
Jackson’s father boasted of being armed during the insurgency in a letter acquired by ProPublica, writing, “January 6th was nothing short of a satirical way to overthrow a government. If overthrow was the quest, it would have no doubt been overthrown.”
Jackson is concerned that his father is getting increasingly more radicalized in prison. And he wonders whether he made a mistake by contacting the FBI. Is his father’s ego enhanced as a result of the national spotlight, making him even more dedicated to his erroneous causes? Jackson lives apart from his family and seldom communicates with them. When he does speak to his mother, he claims she refers to him as “the Gestapo.”
Sarah Jackson, Jackson’s elder sister, is the political bridge between her father and her brother. “I’m not gonna call [my dad] a hero for going [to the Capitol],” Sarah says. “He’s a hero to me because he’s my dad, but not for that.” Sarah believes her father should not be held in prison until his trial starts. It doesn’t seem fair to her since she doesn’t believe he poses a threat to the community, as the judge in Guy’s case determined.
Sarah is still shocked that Jackson phoned the FBI to report their father – there were so many steps he might have taken before going to that level, in her opinion. She does, however, hope that the family will be able to recover from this predicament. Sarah adds she knows her father loves Jackson, which makes her even more furious that her brother turned him in to the FBI (though she can see how her father’s actions triggered the call in the first place). She is clearly conflicted. “It’s hard not to condemn Jackson in defending my father,” she admits.
According to Cynthia Miller-Idriss, professor and head of American University’s Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL), the script has been reversed for those working on educational and familial interventions in extremism. “As we witness increased radicalization and mobilization to violence among older individuals, including rising conspiracy ideas, antigovernmental extremist views, and white supremacist extremism,” Miller-Idriss adds, “we are confronted with a really unusual combination of conditions in families.” Because most research on family interventions focuses on radicalized young people, there is an urgent need for study on the children of adults who participate in extremism or political violence.