New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said it will scrutinize NYPD ranks following a WNYC/Gothamist investigation of online records that appears to tie several New York law enforcement officers and public officials—including at least two active members of the NYPD—to a far-right, anti-government militia.
The mayor’s investigation comes after an anonymous hacker released what it claims are emails and membership data from the Oath Keepers, an extremist militia group that had a notable presence at the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. Eighteen people affiliated with the group have so far been charged with conspiracy related to that event.
The hacked membership records were sent to a transparency nonprofit group called Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoSecrets), which shares leaked data with journalists and researchers. The records posted on the internet Monday do not make clear if the members listed are currently active in the militia.
Three New York public officials listed in the leaked membership logs confirmed to WNYC/Gothamist that they had previously signed up for membership with the organization, but claimed they were no longer active. The NYPD officers whose names matched information listed in the hacked records could not be confirmed as active members and so WNYC/Gothamist has chosen not to name them.
NYPD rules prohibit members of the force from knowingly associating with organizations “reasonably believed” to be engaged in criminal activities.
“The Oath Keepers are a vile, extremist anti-government organization,” said Bill Neidhardt, a de Blasio spokesman. “An immediate internal investigation has been launched.”
In response to a WNYC/Gothamist inquiry, the NYPD said “the incidents are under internal review.”
The founder of Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, has long claimed the militia group successfully recruited thousands of current and former police officers, first responders, and military personnel.
So far, journalists and researchers have been unable to verify those statements.
One NYPD sergeant, who is listed online as being active in the department’s Firearms and Tactics Session, was named in the data dump. The sergeant answered a phone number posted in the membership data and acknowledged he was an NYPD officer when asked whether he was the person in question. He declined to comment on whether or not he is a member of the militia organization, and referred WNYC/Gothamist to the NYPD’s press office.
The log associated with the sergeant suggests he joined the Oath Keepers in 2014. The email address listed with the membership contains the term “nypdcop,” and the entry lists expertise in “field force operations,” “incident management,” and “riot control agents.”
Another name revealed in the hack matches that of a Staten Island officer currently assigned to the department’s Strategic Response Group, a unit that’s been frequently deployed to quell protests, including those that erupted in New York City last year in response the murder of George Floyd.
When WNYC/Gothamist called the phone number associated with that membership entry, a man answered but did not confirm whether or not he was the officer in question. When asked if he was a member of the Oath Keepers, the man paused and asked how his number was obtained. He then declined to answer further questions.
In New York, WNYC/Gothamist was able to identify dozens of names that appeared to match those of current and former police, court, and corrections officers in New York City and other jurisdictions, including Nassau County on Long Island, and Dutchess and Greene Counties in upstate New York.
The Oath Keepers was founded in 2009 following the election of Barack Obama. The group’s name is a reference to the oath U.S. military service members take upon enlistment to “support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups and other extremists throughout the country, the Oath Keepers spread false conspiracy theories about voter fraud during the 2016 and 2020 elections, encouraging its members to discreetly monitor polling sites.
“People need to be aware of exactly what groups like the Oath Keepers believe,” said Freddy Cruz, a research analyst at Southern Poverty Law Center. “This argument that they're somehow just defending the Constitution – it's totally bogus.”
Earlier this month, an ex-Marine and Florida member of the Oath Keepers pleaded guilty to charges of obstructing an official proceeding and conspiracy for his role in the January 6th Capitol Hill riot. At least four other people tied to the militia previously pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the incident, according to Reuters.
The hack also includes detailed information on Ed Keyrouze, chief of staff for the New York Guard, a state volunteer force, and civilian employee of the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs, which oversees the state’s approximately 20,000 national guard and naval militia members.
In the logs, the entry associated with Keyrouze refers to his ability to“recruit from NY Army & Air Guard, NY State Guard & USCG [Coast Guard] Auxiliary.”
“There are over 20 riders that work at Natl Guard HQ's (DMNA-NY),” the entry states. “Some of them are members of Combat Veterans & Patriot Guard. Will work to bring them onboard to Oath Keepers."
In an email to WNYC/Gothamist, Keyrouze acknowledged that he signed up online for a one-year Oath Keepers membership “several years back,” but claimed he was not actively involved with the organization.
“I was never active with that group and did not renew dues,” Keyrouze said in his email to WNYC/Gothamist. “Bottom line, I have no affiliation with that organization and never participated in any activities.”
“I have brought this matter to the attention of the NY Guard Commander and explained what I stated to you above,” he continued in the email.
The logs also included some aspiring and current county political officials.
Ralph E. Stacy, an Oswego County legislator, who is a member of the Republican Party, is named in the hacked database. He said he had filled out a membership form with the Oath Keepers, but had not had any interaction with them for “roughly a dozen years.”
“I do not condone what happened at the Capitol building and was not involved in what occurred,” said Stacy, who said he had never spoken to anyone involved with the organization and made clear he had not participated in the Capitol riot. “I certainly do believe in the right to peaceful assembly to protest one's cause, but I do not believe in any sort of criminal trespass or criminal activity as a means to an end.”
Thomas Zmich, a Republican candidate for Queens Borough president, whose name and contact information are also listed in the hacked membership log, said he was briefly involved with the Oath Keepers New York chapter, but stopped after he said the chapter dissolved about three years ago.
In February, the NYPD confirmed to The New York Daily News it was investigating another officer, who was seen with Oath Keeper members hours before the January 6th attacks. The NYPD did not provide an update on the status of that probe.