Former Marine and ex-Donald Trump supporter Ray Epps told his story about how his life got completely upended after conservatives made him the center of numerous January 6 conspiracy theories.
Epps, who formerly lived in Arizona, gave an interview to The New York Times on the condition that they withhold his new address in the Rocky Mountains. Throughout the conversation, Epps went into saddening detail about being forced to sell his house and business, and uproot his whole life after conspiracy theorists took off about him being a secret FBI agent.
For months, Trump, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and other right-wing figures have pushed the unsubstantiated claim that federal agents secretly incited Trump’s supporters into storming the U.S. Capitol. The conspiracy theory shields Trump from blame for the riot, plus conservatives have claimed that the government is using the riot as a pretext to punish those who support the ex-president.
Epps has been dragged into the conspiracy theory on numerous occasions by those claiming (without tangible evidence) he was a covert fed who embedded himself in the Capitol mob and incited Trump’s supporters in order to legally entrap them.
Epps was caught on video before January 6 as he called for Trump’s supporters to “go into the Capitol.” On the day of the riot, Epps was seen trying to de-escalate the situation, and even though he entered restricted Capitol grounds at the time, he never entered the building itself.
Epps was placed on the FBI’s list of persons of interest in connection with the mob, but he was removed shortly after, he was neither arrested nor charged for his actions, and he swore under oath to the January 6 Committee that he has never been a law enforcement asset. Because he wasn’t arrested, however, the conspiracy remains, and the Times described how Epps feels disillusioned by the right-wing leaders who’ve spread “lies” about him.
“All of this, it’s just been hell,” Epps said. “I am at the center of this thing, and it’s the biggest farce that’s ever been. It’s just not right. The American people are being led down a path. I think it should be criminal…”
Epps went on to explain that he and his wife are still considering legal action against those who defamed him with conspiracy theories. Much of the interview also consisted of Epps describing how the impact of the baseless claims ruined his life:
From the Times:
The problems began for Mr. Epps almost as soon as Revolver News published its first article about him in October. Suddenly, there were emailed death threats; trespassers on his property demanding “answers” about Jan. 6; and acquaintances, fellow members of his church, even family members who disowned him, he said.
In late December, Ms. Epps discovered shell casings on the ground near the bunkhouse of the farm-style wedding venue they owned in Arizona, suggesting that someone had been shooting at the building. Then, in January, Mr. Epps received a letter from someone claiming to have been brought into the country by a Mexican drug cartel.
The writer said he had overheard some cartel members talking about killing Mr. Epps.
“I right on paper to tell you need to be look out,” the letter said in broken English. “These drug gang people very bad people.”
Whether it was real or just a demented joke, Ms. Epps went into hiding, leaving Mr. Epps to arm himself and run the family business for a while through his security team. Ultimately, the couple sold the business and their ranch-style house, losing hundreds of thousands of dollars and wrecking the arrangements they had made for their retirement.
“It has a been a nightmare,” Ms. Epps said.