SALT LAKE CITY — Landon Copeland, one of five Utah men charged with crimes connected to the insurrection, said he wanted to talk to members of Congress on Jan. 6 about police brutality and the presidential election.
He’s in jail now, he says, because he’s accused of threatening the probation officer who was supervising him while he was free pending trial.
“I’m alleging that I did not,” Copeland told FOX 13 in an interview from the Washington County jail.
“I can give you verbatim the quote," he continued. “It was, ‘I would eat your flesh for its nutrient. I don’t think you know what I am.’”
Copeland, 33, is charged in federal court in Washington, D.C., with four counts related to the insurrection, including charges of fighting with police and remaining in a restricted area. He could serve 7 ½ years in prison if convicted.
He was free pending trial and then was arrested earlier this month. The specifics of why he was arrested and has been detained have been sealed in federal court.
Entirety of Zion
Copeland was born in Missouri. Then when he was 6 years old, his family converted to the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and moved to its community on the Utah-Arizona line.
“My childhood was amazing,” Copeland said. “We had the entirety of the Zions, the Zions area national park to just wander around on. We were free as the wind would blow.”
Then in 2003, Copeland’s father was convicted in Mohave County, Arizona, of assaulting someone he thought had inappropriately touched his daughter. The FLDS president excommunicated the Copeland family.
In 2007, Landon Copeland joined the U.S. Army. He was assigned to an armored brigade. He twice deployed to Iraq.
“I was never wounded, but I was shot at,” Copeland said. “I was diagnosed with PTSD and bipolar disorder.”
Copeland didn’t like the medication the Army prescribed him. Someone told him marijuana would make him feel better.
“It did. And I was behind on my bills quite a bit and everything, and I began growing the substance in my garage," he said. “They came and searched my house and my car and everything, and then I was arrested and incarcerated for 140 days.”
That arrest led to his discharge from the Army for bad conduct. He does not receive veterans' benefits. He says he can’t afford counseling.
Copeland is divorced with three children. He said back child support payments led to his having his driver’s license suspended and a period of homelessness. So, Copeland did not vote in the 2020 presidential election.
The people’s house
When asked what encouraged Copeland to go to Washington in January, he replied: “Police brutality, mostly."
“Unfortunately, this is not just a problem of the left," he continued. "I have been homeless and incarcerated — my vehicle searched without warrant, my person searched without warrant, my home searched without warrant.”
As for President Donald Trump, Copeland explained, “He invited us to be there.”
Copeland said he drove from southern Utah with his girlfriend and others. They arrived at a motel in Virginia on Jan. 5. The next day, they took a commuter train into Washington and walked to the Capitol.
“My full intention there was to go into this building and sit down,” Copeland said, “and let’s just discuss this election and what happened, and what we have going on that’s going down.
“And let’s sit down. Let’s postpone this thing momentarily. That way we can really have an investigation — a true investigation into the voter fraud.”
By Jan. 6, U.S. Attorney General William Barr and election officials from across the country already had said there was no significant fraud.
“I walked up to one of the officers that was standing behind the barricades and asked, ‘How do we get in? Is there…where’s the front door?’" Copeland recalled. "And he says, ‘Well, you can’t.’ I says, ‘Why?’ and he says, ‘We can’t let you,’ and I says, ‘Why? It doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to us, the people.’”
Copeland said bangs from officers' non-lethal grenades started detonating. He saw police entering the crowd.
“They were pushing through the crowd to get to these individuals and arrest them,” Copeland said. “And so, I made my way up there and started pushing back against them to try to prevent them from coming back into the crowd.”
In an affidavit, an FBI agent wrote the police were trying to reach an officer who had fallen in the crowd, and that Copeland was obstructing them.
“One of them started hitting me in the legs with a baton,” Copeland said. “So, I took his baton from him. And then one of them started pushing me back with the riot shield. So, I took his riot shield from him.”
“And I understood that if we didn’t take the high ground from these individuals, we’re nothing but fish in a barrel to be shot at.”
Video and photos from that day show Copeland wresting a crowd control gate away from police.
“They took that crowd control gate,” Copeland said, “and they had it up about chest high and they were pushing it into people, stabbing them with the feet on the bottom of it.”
“And I grabbed a hold of it with the rest of the people that were there, and we went to shaking it trying to shake the officers off of it. And then, they hit everybody with pepper spray and they were saying, ‘Hit their hands! Hit their hands!’”
“So, everybody started letting go. So, I picked the thing up and tried to chuck it over the tops of the officers in the hopes that they wouldn’t use it as a weapon anymore against us.”
“And then, at some point, I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to get myself killed if I don’t stop.’ You know what I’m saying? And so, I walked back and I found my girlfriend and I said, ‘Let’s get out of here.’”
Copeland’s girlfriend has not been accused of rioting that day and is not charged with crimes. She’s pregnant with Copeland’s fourth child.
Copeland does not think of himself as a traitor.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “I stood against their soldiers and their dogmen, a champion of my people that day.”
As for that May 6 virtual court hearing where he yelled profanities, he says he only got angry after an attorney for another defendant blamed his client’s actions on watching Fox News.
“I just didn’t understand,” Copeland said, “why they were allowed to appeal to the left-leaning biases of that court so heavily.”
Before he goes to trial, Copeland is supposed to be evaluated to determine whether he understands the charges against him and can assist in his own defense.
“I do believe that the jury, whenever they stand there, they will see me as nothing more than a soldier trying to defend his people from the people who were attacking them," he said. "And whatever the cost may be I would willingly do it again for the people that I love.”
Copeland faces unrelated charges in Utah state court. He was charged in 2020 with felony counts of illegal weapons possession, drug possession, theft and arson.