2 armed members of Vets for Trump group arrested near Philadelphia vote counting location

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Two men with loaded handguns were arrested Thursday near the Philadelphia convention center where an ongoing vote count could decide the presidential election, police said.

Joshua Macias, 42, and Antonio LaMotta, 61, traveled from the Virginia Beach, Virginia, area in a Hummer and did not have permits to carry the weapons in Pennsylvania, police said. They were charged with illegal firearms possession, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper.

Macias had a .40-caliber Beretta handgun inside his jacket, LaMotta had a 9 mm Beretta in a holster and an AR-style rifle and ammunition were found inside the vehicle, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said. Authorities initially said that the rifle did not have a serial number but later said that it did.

A woman with the men was not arrested, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said, also noting that other charges could come for the two men.

The men were arrested after the FBI in Virginia relayed a tip to Philadelphia police. Officers stopped the men about a block from the vehicle, Outlaw said.

A silver Hummer with Virginia license plates was parked Friday at the location where police say they found the men’s vehicle. It was adorned with an American flag, a window sticker for the right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon and a fresh parking ticket.

LaMotta and Macias both have frequented Virginia right-wing rallies and are President Donald Trump supporters, the Times-Dispatch reported. Macias was a Vets for Trump co-founder, the group’s executive director, Vlad Lemets, told the newspaper. LaMotta is listed as an ambassador on the organization’s website. He also is an Army vet and is a bodyguard and security contractor, according to a website under his name, the newspaper reported.

Macias and LaMotta, both of Chesapeake, Virginia, remained in police custody on Friday and were awaiting arraignment on state weapons charges: carrying a concealed firearm without a license and carrying a firearm on a public street.

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Information on lawyers who could speak on their behalf wasn’t immediately available.

Macias and LaMotta’s arrests drew outsized attention amid heightened tensions over the undecided presidential race, but officials cautioned against reading too much into them.

There was no indications that anyone else was involved or that the men are members of an extremist group, Krasner said. He said there have been no reported incidents of violence election-related violence in the city.

Macias posted a video to Facebook on Thursday showing him outside the convention center wearing a T-shirt for “Veterans for Trump,” a group for which he was a founding member. The Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism provided a copy of the video to The Associated Press.

“We are in a fight for America as we know it. We’re not going to give up our freedoms,” he said in the video. He also said they want to make sure “legitimate” votes were counted and repeated a false belief among some Trump backers about the ballot counting process.

Lemets told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that Vets For Trump has a lawyer to represent the two men. One of them did not have a license for his firearm, police told the outlet. The other had a Virginia concealed carry permit, which would not be recognized in Pennsylvania.

The organization did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Military Times.

Military Times managing editor Howard Altman contributed to this report.

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