Chris Spencer's father says his son told him that he was swept along with the crowd when supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 but that his son caused no property damage.
"This has been blown out of proportion," Winton Spencer said from the front porch of his Surry County home Wednesday. "When you are in a crowd and they start moving forward, you better go with the crowd or get trampled."
Federal authorities say Christopher "Chris" Spencer did more than just walk around inside the Capitol: The arrest documents portray him as an enthusiastic participant in storming the building.
Basing their account on a Facebook livestream that Spencer took himself, federal agents say Spencer encouraged people to kick open the doors of the U.S. House chamber, and yelled obscenities as police approached the mob inside an area in the Capitol.
Spencer, who is 40 and lives in Pilot Mountain, faces federal charges of obstructing official proceedings, engaging in violent entry of the Capitol and disorderly conduct there, and with entering and remaining unlawfully in the building.
He is the first person from North Carolina to face federal charges in connection with the Jan. 6 events at the Capitol.
The charges don't include any actual damage to property. During the assault, participants in the Capitol mob can be seen smashing windows, occupying offices and carrying off items.
Winton Spencer said he's not claiming his son is "innocent of everything, because he was in there."
"He probably did run his mouth, but when do you silence someone from running their mouth?" the father said. At the same time, Spencer said, he believes his son is being unfairly portrayed in media reports.
"He is not a terrorist," Spencer said. "He is not a skinhead. Not a racist. He wasn't raised to be like that. He was probably in there 15 or 20 minutes. When he saw things starting to go down" he got out of the building, the father said.
Spencer said his son has never been a member of any organization that believes in white supremacy and in fact had never previously participated in any sort of protest before going to Washington.
Chris Spencer decided to go because of his support for Trump, which his father shares. Family members, like many Trump supporters, believe that Trump was robbed of what should have been a victory by forces opposed to Trump.
Winton Spencer said he also believes in the debunked conspiracy theory that elites, including many Democrats, are involved in a secret pedophilia ring. Spencer said the FBI is corrupt and that the media refuse to tell the truth about Trump and his supporters.
Now, he said, family members are in fear of harassment or even losing their jobs after news of their son's arrest was made public. Spencer said his wife got calls from the media at her job that made her upset and that other family members have been in tears because of their fears.
Nancy Spencer, Chris Spencer's mother, noted on her Facebook page that her son's Facebook account had been shut down.
Winton Spencer said his son had a Christian upbringing and attended a Christian school growing up, although he graduated from a public high school when the family was living in Virginia.
In his adulthood, the father acknowledged, his son had run-ins with the law after he "got with the wrong crowd."
Winton Spencer said his son has been out of trouble in recent years, though.
Christopher Spencer's lengthy criminal record consists mostly of traffic infractions and citations, misdemeanors and low-level felonies. His most recent criminal case was a citation for driving while license revoked and an infraction for driving the wrong way on a one-way street from last year. The case was disposed on Jan. 13. His record goes from the mid-2000s to 2020.
He has been cited several times over the years for driving with a revoked license and other traffic issues, including speeding, but most of those were dismissed by prosecutors. He has been convicted of possession of stolen goods and property, breaking and entering, larceny and obtaining property by false pretenses, those offenses occurring in the 2013-15 period.
Spencer also has convictions for drug possession and paraphernalia and attempted possession of a firearm by a felon. According to online court records, he was also charged with assault on a female and communicating threats, but those charges were dismissed. He was convicted of making harassing phone calls.
His criminal convictions have not garnered any active time prison time, court records show. He has gotten supervised probation.
In their statement of facts relating to Spencer's arrest, federal authorities said Spencer livestreamed video on Facebook as he made his way into the Capitol and around the corridors inside.
At one point, authorities said, the video showed Spencer in the Crypt at the Capitol, where he was part of a large crowd being held back by police officers. Spencer on the video says that the crowd "stormed the Capitol, bro ... pushed the cops out of the way, everything ... took it over," according to authorities.
The crowd, including Spencer, began chanting "Who's House? Our House!" and "Stop the Steal!" repeatedly, authorities said, basing their account on Spencer's livestream.
Spencer's video shows him entering the corridor where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office is located, authorities said. While authorities said Spencer can be heard asking where Pelosi's office is, the video shows him turning with his companions to go into Statuary Hall instead of continuing toward the speaker's office.
Authorities said Spencer later appears to encourage a crowd to kick open the doors leading into the U.S. House chamber. Later, authorities said, Spencer can be heard yelling "traitor" and obscenities as police attempt to enter the area.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Spencer will make his first appearance in court virtually on Monday.
Under the conditions of his release, Spencer must stay at home except when working, getting medical treatment, or doing other approved activities. He is not allowed to possess a firearm and must stay away from Washington except for such things as approved court hearings.
Jay Ferguson, a Durham attorney for Chris Spencer, could not be reached for comment.
Staff writer Michael Hewlett contributed to this report