"It was my moral compass, kind of, to do what I thought would protect not only my family, but my dad himself," Jackson Reffitt, 18, said after tipping the F.B.I. to his dad's actions.

By Jeff Truesdell
January 26, 2021
Video footage of the Capitol riot on Jan. 6 shows plaintiff Guy Reffitt wearing a tactical-style vest and rinsing his eyes
Guy Reffitt at te Jan. 6 Capitol riot in Washington, D.C.
| Credit: FBI

Like much of America, Jackson Reffitt watched the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot unfold on the TV screen in horror. But he was even more concerned than most.

"I think it was FOX playing, and it was just live screening of riots at the Capitol, and the rushing in, and my mom said 'your dad is there,'" the 18-year-old Texan told KDFW.

As federal authorities later began to comb through videos and online postings to identify those who'd breached the building, Reffitt reported his father's presence at the event to the F.B.I. -- and shared an earlier statement in which his father allegedly told him, "If you turn me in, you're a traitor and you know what happens to traitors ... traitors get shot."

"If you were to write down that quote and give it to anyone, ever, it would never be OK," Reffitt told the station. "He said, 'Choose a side' ... 'Choose a side or die.'"

His father, 48-year-old Guy Reffitt, was arrested Jan. 16 on a charge of obstruction of justice after the F.B.I. executed a search warrant at his Wylie, Texas, home, according to an arrest affidavit. Inside the residence, agents found an AR-15 rifle and a pistol; Guy Reffitt said he had taken the pistol to D.C. and was there on the day of the riot, but denied going inside the Capitol building, the affidavit says.

It was not immediately clear if Guy Reffitt had entered a plea or retained an attorney to speak on his behalf.

The son says he actually alerted the F.B.I. weeks prior to the Capitol assault that his father had allegedly talked about "doing something big," he told The New York Times. As the riot was unfolding, agents contacted him to ask about that earlier tip.

"I didn't know what he was going to do, so I just did anything possible just to be on the safe side," he told the newspaper.

"It was my moral compass, kind of, to do what I thought would protect not only my family, but my dad himself," he told KDFW. "And it wasn't just because I think my dad is aggressive, I think what he's been manipulated into thinking is aggressive."

According to the affidavit, Guy Reffitt's wife told investigators that he is affiliated with the far-right militia group the Three Percenters.

In images from the Jan. 6 event, Guy Reffitt is seen dressed in a blue jacket, with what appears to be a black padded or tactical style vest, and a black helmet sporting what appears to be an attached GoPro-style camera.

The son told authorities that Guy Reffitt went to D.C. that day thinking he would "protect the country," the affidavit states. The son alleged that his father became aware authorities were searching for him and that he needed to "erase everything." The son also alleged his father threatened his own daughter against reporting him.

"Reffitt stated to daughter that if daughter were recording Reffitt or put this (meaning Reffitt's comments) anywhere on social media, then daughter will have crossed the line, betrayed the family, and Reffitt was going to 'put a bullet through' daughter's phone," the affidavit states.

Moreover, according to the affidavit, Reffitt's spouse also confirmed to authorities that Reffitt told his son and daughter, "If you turn me in, you're a traitor and you know what happens to traitors … traitors get shot."

"Spouse did not believe Reffitt would act on his words and, according to spouse, neither spouse nor son or daughter felt threatened, but rather 'disturbed' by Reffitt's 'extreme' statements," the affidavit states.

In reporting his father, Jackson Reffitt says, "I put my emotions behind me to do what I thought was right," he told the Times.

He said he doesn't know whether his father is aware of what he did. Nor did his mother or two sisters know until after he did an interview on CNN, he says.

"I am afraid for him to know," he said. "Not for my life or anything, but for what he might think."

After garnering attention for his actions, Jackson Reffitt created a GoFundMe page, writing, "I was interviewed on CNN and got so much support from thousands of people, so many asked for a Go Fund Me so here it is. Every penny is another course in college or me saving it for years to come. I might be kicked out of my house due to my involvement in my dad's case, so every cent might help me survive."

As of Monday the site had raised nearly $104,000 from more than 3,000 donors.

Jackson Reffitt says he has not spoken to his father since his arrest but "I wish I could," he told KDFW.

"I would say I'm sorry, because I don't feel like I put him in this situation, but I still feel guilty," he said.

Asked if he'd do so again, he said, "Yes, I would do it again."

This story originally appeared on people.com