Matthew Perna of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, who faced more than a year of criticism after his presence during the 2021 Capitol Riots, died Feb. 25 after taking his own life.
On Monday, the Mercer County Coroner’s Office said his death was under investigation.
Perna was federally indicted in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. In December, he had pleaded guilty to entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; obstruction of an official proceeding; aiding and abetting, disorderly and disruptive conduct on a restricted building or grounds; and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building.
Investigators overseeing the case said that Perna remained inside the Capitol building for 20 minutes filming and posted the footage to social media video of the events on Jan. 6.
While Perna admitted to being inside the Capitol, he said he was pushed inside by the group. Perna said he had been at the top of the stairs and was surprised that the door leading into the Capitol was open. It was at that time he claimed to have been pushed inside by the crowd.
The indictment and subsequent persecution by the public are blamed for his death in his obituary online. The obituary stated that “his community (which he loved), his country, and the justice system killed his spirit and his zest for life:”
“He attended the rally on Jan. 6, 2021, to peacefully stand up for his beliefs. After learning that the FBI was looking for him, he immediately turned himself in,” the statement reads.
“He entered the Capitol through a previously opened door (he did not break in as was reported) where he was ushered in by police. He didn’t break, touch, or steal anything. He did not harm anyone, as he stayed within the velvet ropes taking pictures. For this act, he has been persecuted by many members of his community, friends, relatives, and people who had never met him. Many people were quietly supportive, and Matt was truly grateful for them,” says the obituary, detailing his struggles.
“The constant delays in hearings and postponements dragged out for over a year. Because of this, Matt’s heart broke, and his spirit died, and many people are responsible for the pain he endured. Matt did not have a hateful bone in his body. He embraced people of all races, income brackets, and beliefs, never once berating anyone for having different views.”
Perna was set to appear for sentencing on Apr. 1 in the U.S. District Court District of Columbia in Washington, D.C.
Perna was among the more than 700 people arrested in connection to the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.