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Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio released from jail; role in extremist group is unclear

Will Carless, USA TODAY Published 12:51 p.m. ET Jan. 14, 2022 | Updated 1:01 p.m. ET Jan. 14, 2022

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A self-described leader of the Proud Boys was charged for his role in the Capitol riots; authorities said Joseph Biggs encouraged other extremists. USA TODAY

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Henry “Enrique” Tarrio was released from jail in Washington, D.C., Friday morning after serving four months and a week for setting fire to a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic African American church in the nation’s capital.

The D.C. Department of Corrections confirmed to USA TODAY that Tarrio was released.

Tarrio has called himself the “chairman” of the Proud Boys extremist group, a white supremacist-adjacent gang notorious for street fighting and property damage. His current role in the organization is unclear, and he has said he plans to run for political office after returning to his hometown, Miami.

Last January, Tarrio was also charged with possession of high-caliber magazines, which are illegal in Washington, D.C. He was arrested two days prior to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and pleaded guilty in July and made a deal with prosecutors. He was sentenced to five months in jail.

At least 37 members of the Proud Boys have been arrested and charged for their actions on Jan. 6 and four have been charged with conspiracy.

Inside a Proud Boys chapter: They joined the Wisconsin Proud Boys looking for brotherhood. They found racism, bullying and antisemitism.

Proud Boys splintering: Will more radical factions emerge?

Enrique Tarrio of the Proud Boys extremists group seen at a rally in Portland, Oregon in August 2019.

(Photo: Noah Berger, AP)

As Tarrio emerges, it is unclear whether he still maintains a leadership role within the Proud Boys. Prior to his incarceration, he announced he was “stepping down” from the group. But Tarrio and other Proud Boys members have continued to refer to him as chairman throughout his months in jail.

Gavin McInnes, who founded the Proud Boys, said last month that he didn’t know who was leading the group.

“I don’t know. Nobody does,” McInness wrote in an email to USA TODAY.

The confusion may be by design.

The night before he went to jail, Tarrio told Proud Boy researcher Samantha Kutner that he was considering stepping down but also that he planned to mock journalists by telling them different versions of who was running the organization.

“The Proud Boys want to erode the trust of mainstream journalists and that would be an effective strategy for doing so,” said Kutner, lead researcher at the Khalifa Ihler Institute, a think tank that studies approaches to combating extremism.

Tarrio’s role at the Proud Boys has been under fire since it was revealed last year that he had worked as a federal informant. Several chapters of the Proud Boys rejected Tarrio after those revelations, but no clear leader has emerged in the ensuing months.

More: DOJ charges 11 Oath Keepers, including leader, with seditious conspiracy in Jan. 6 Capitol attack

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