Brother of slain Capitol rioter Ashli Babbitt faces hate crime charges in San Diego attack

A sign on the door of a building says "Mask Free Autonomous Zone, Better Known as America"
On Jan, 7, 2021, the day after the Capitol riot, a sign hanging on the door of the San Diego-area pool supply company owned by Ashli Babbitt declares it a “Mask Free Autonomous Zone.” Babbitt’s brother, Roger Stefan Witthoeft Jr., worked with her there.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

A man facing battery and hate crime charges after being accused of attacking and hurling racial slurs at a utility worker last year in San Diego is the brother of Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed by a police officer while trying to enter a hallway outside the House chamber during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Roger Stefan Witthoeft Jr., 33, was arraigned March 1 on misdemeanor charges of battery with a hate crime enhancement and violating the victim’s constitutional rights by threat of force, according to the San Diego city attorney’s office.

He pleaded not guilty in San Diego County Superior Court.

Witthoeft is accused of shoving and trying to punch a San Diego Gas & Electric Co. traffic controller in September while shouting “a number of racial slurs” at the victim, who is Latino, and telling him to “Go back to your country you f— immigrant,” according to the city attorney’s office.


Prosecutors said Witthoeft is also accused of asking the man, “Why don’t you talk in English you f— immigrant?” as well as challenging the worker to fight, shoving him and swinging at him, knocking off his hard hat.

Los Angeles recorded the most hate crimes among large U.S. cities last year, posting a 71% jump in the incidents, a study finds.

Feb. 1, 2022

Witthoeft could not be reached for comment Tuesday. The public defender’s office represented him at his arraignment last week. It was unclear Tuesday which deputy public defender was handling his case.

Public records identify Witthoeft as Babbitt’s brother, and court records show they were codefendants in a 2018 lawsuit alleging they and their Spring Valley-based pool services company failed to repay a high-interest cash advance they had secured and both signed. Witthoeft also identified himself as Babbitt’s brother last year in an interview with the New York Times.

Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran, was at the head of a mob when a U.S. Capitol Police officer fatally shot her. Video shows her climbing toward a broken opening in a set of doors leading to the Speaker’s Lobby, a hallway that connects to the House chamber, before she is shot.

Former President Trump and many of his supporters have portrayed Babbitt as a martyr who was unjustly killed while protesting the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Trump called her “an incredible person” in a taped, posthumous birthday greeting to her in October. He also demanded the Justice Department reinvestigate Babbitt’s death, though the officer who shot her was cleared of wrongdoing by federal prosecutors and the Capitol Police.


In since-removed social media posts, Babbitt, who embraced QAnon conspiracy theories online and reportedly flew a QAnon flag above her Ocean Beach home, railed against illegal immigration and made vague references to threats along the border.

Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt opined on gun laws and border security on social media, then bought into QAnon conspiracy theories before joining pro-Trump insurrectionists to storm the U.S. Capitol, where she was shot dead by police.

Jan. 8, 2021

Now, her brother stands accused of battering a Latino man and berating him with racial slurs. The incident occurred around 11:10 p.m. Sept. 14 in an area near Ocean Beach and Point Loma, at Voltaire Street and Mendocino Boulevard, according to a criminal complaint and prosecutors.

An SDG&E crew making repairs had set up a roadblock that Witthoeft happened upon, according to the city attorney’s office, which typically prosecutes misdemeanor cases. When the SDG&E traffic controller told Witthoeft about the road closure, he got out of his pickup truck and “verbally and physically confronted the worker,” prosecutors said.

The city attorney’s office said witnesses told police about Witthoeft’s use of racial slurs, anti-immigrant remarks and the physical confrontation.

Witthoeft told the New York Times last year that he and several other family members worked with Babbitt at Fowler’s Pool Service & Supply Inc., which she and her husband, Aaron, owned. On the day Babbitt was shot last year, at a time when COVID-19 vaccines were not yet widely available, the front door of the business was adorned with a sign against health protocols that stated: “Mask Free Autonomous Zone, Better Known as America.”

Court records showed the business was sued twice in the past several years, in San Diego and New York, over breach of contract issues.