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Former cop charged in the Capitol riot was an armed guard for Novant. She's no longer allowed to hold that job.
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Former cop charged in the Capitol riot was an armed guard for Novant. She's no longer allowed to hold that job.

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A former Novant Health security guard who was arrested last week for her alleged role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol can no longer work as an armed security guard in North Carolina.

Records released Monday also show that the woman was fired as a High Point police officer in August 2004 for several reasons, including absence from duty and violations of communication policy.

Laura Lee Steele, 52, of Thomasville was arrested Wednesday in Greensboro. She was among nine alleged co-conspirators indicted on several charges, including unlawful entry into the U.S. Capitol and conspiring to obstruct the U.S. Congress' certification of the presidential election results.

Clyde Roper, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Public Safety, said Monday that Steele previously was a registered armed security guard with Novant Health. She had been registered with the Private Protective Services Board since 2018. The only way Steele can work as an armed security guard is if she has a registration through that board.

It's not clear when Steele started as a security guard with Novant Health. Officials last week declined to comment on her status with the hospital system.

Roper said that the board can suspend or revoke a license or registration for violating provisions of the Private Protective Services Act.

"The suspension is effective immediately and she may no longer work as an armed guard until the suspension is lifted," he said in an email.

John Bryson, Steele’s attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Her co-defendants included her brother, Graydon Young, 54, of Englewood, Fla.; Kelly Meggs, 52, and wife, Connie Meggs, 59, both of Dunnellon, Fla.; and Sandra Ruther Parker, 62, and husband, Bennie Alvin Parker, 70, of Morrow, Ohio. In January, federal authorities announced the arrests of three other co-defendants — Thomas Caldwell, 65, of Clarke County, Va.; Donovan Crowl, 50, of Champaign County, Ohio; and Jessica Watkins, 38, also of Champaign County, Ohio.

All nine defendants were associated with The Oath Keepers, a radical, far-right, anti-government group that believes that a cabal of elites are trying to strip Americans of their rights. The group has an open membership but heavily recruits from military and law-enforcement. Kelly Meggs is a self-described leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers.

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In late December, he wrote in a Facebook message, "Trump said It's gonna be wild!!!!!!! It's gonna be wild!!!!!!! He wants us to make it WILD that's what he's saying. He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!! Sir Yes Sir!!! Gentlemen we are heading to DC pack your s***!!" He later said in the Facebook post that there would be 50 to 100 Oath Keepers there.

Authorities alleged in court papers that Steele and the others communicated over the course of two months before the Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, coordinating training, logistics and travel plans. They also communicated while in the U.S. Capitol and talked about whether weapons would be needed and what tactical gear they would need to wear. Authorities were able to identify Steele and others through videos and pictures either posted on social media or captured by news organizations.

Steele submitted an application to the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers on Jan. 3. In that application, according to court documents, she said she had been in law-enforcement for 13 years, working as a SWAT officer and a K-9 officer. On Jan. 6, she, along with her brother and others, dressed in paramilitary clothing and went into the U.S. Capitol in a military-style "stack" formation, meaning that members kept their hands on the backs or vests of the person in front of them as they moved into the building.

Some of the defendants took selfies and communicated with each other while in the U.S. Capitol, court papers said.

Steele used to work as a High Point police officer, and she is currently married to Kenneth Steele, who retired in January as an assistant police chief for the High Point Police Department.

According to records released Monday, Laura Steele and her husband were hired the same day – March 16, 1992. Laura Steele was suspended without pay for two days in July 2004 for violation of professional behavior and conduct toward the public policies. She was fired on Aug. 27, 2004 for conduct toward superior personnel, absence from duty and violation of communications policy.

The High Point Police Department did not provide additional information about Steele’s suspension and subsequent termination.

In 2001, Steele worked as a school-resource officer as part of her duties with the High Point Police Department. She was investigated and cleared in two separate incidents in which she pepper-sprayed students — an 11-year-old girl at Southwest Middle School and a 16-year-old boy at Southwest High School. In 1994, she also used pepper-spray against a woman after the woman allegedly kicked Steele in the jaw during an arrest.

And that same year, she was involved in a car chase that went into Davie County and resulted in her patrol car being totaled.

Steele is scheduled to appear Tuesday morning in U.S. District Court in Durham for a detention hearing.

Steele is the third person from the Piedmont Triad to be arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection. A Pilot Mountain couple — Christopher Raphael Spencer and Virginia Spencer — were arrested for their alleged role in the insurrection.

The Capitol riot on Jan. 6 followed months of false allegations, many promoted by former President Donald Trump, that the presidential election was rife with voter fraud. Thousands of people pushed through Capitol police officers and broke into the U.S. Capitol in an apparent effort to stop the certification process.

Prosecutors said that 139 Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police officers were assaulted. Five people died, including a woman who was shot as she tried to get through a barricaded door near the House Chamber.

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@mhewlettWSJ

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