Ralph Joseph Celentano III, accused Capitol rioter, charged with pushing officer over ledge

Ralph Joseph Celentano III, 54, was arrested Wednesday in the Broad Channel neighborhood of New York’s Queens borough. Celentano faces seven federal charges, including civil disorder, assaulting an officer, disorderly conduct and entering a restricted building.

Celentano did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment. Court records do not identify an attorney.

Celentano is one of more than 775 people who have been arrested and charged over alleged participation in the riot on Jan. 6, 2021. Many of those facing charges have accepted plea deals. Celentano’s arrest comes one day after Guy Reffitt, the first riot defendant to go to trial, was found guilty of all five felony charges, including armed trespassing, witness tampering and interfering with police in a riot. He will be sentenced in June.

The FBI had several recordings of Celentano outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 thanks to open-source video and security cameras, according to court documents. His look was “distinctive,” investigators said, noting his long hair, Trump flag, two-toned jacket and backpack affixed with a folding chair.

One video showed Celentano crouched behind a Capitol Police officer as he peered over a ledge on the West Terrace, stills of the recording in court documents show. Celentano can be seen pushing the officer over the ledge, investigators said. The attack was a “football-type tackle,” the officer later told investigators, adding that he was “blindsided.”

The officer, an Iraq War veteran, immediately focused on standing up, disregarding any possibility that he was injured, court documents say. He said he was scared that if he didn’t get up, he would be “stomped on” by the mob.

“I didn’t survive a war to go out like this,” he thought in the moment, he told investigators.

Celentano was also spotted in footage from D.C. police officers’ body cameras “engaging in several physical altercations with uniformed law enforcement personnel,” court documents say.

Toll booth data showed that Celentano left Broad Channel on Jan. 6 around 3 a.m. and returned the following day around 7:30 p.m., according to investigators.

As the FBI worked to identify Celentano in the Capitol footage, investigators received a tip with an image of Celentano and about 20 others at an event for the Jenny Albert Sea Turtle Foundation in Broad Channel. The nonprofit works to fund sea turtle rehabilitation, research and education, its website says.

Investigators found the image on both the Instagram and Facebook pages for the nonprofit, according to court documents. A volunteer then identified Celentano in the picture, investigators said, and a second witness, who has been friends with Celentano for over 13 years, confirmed that the person in the images from the riot is his friend.

Celentano was released on $50,000 bond after appearing in federal court in Brooklyn, the Associated Press reported. It is unclear when he is due back in court.

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