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November 06, 2020

Philly police thwart alleged threat to Pennsylvania Convention Center, where votes are being counted

Authorities arrest two men potentially associated with QAnon conspiracy movement

Police Investigations
pennsylvania convention plot arrest Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Two men from Virginia were arrested by Philadelphia police Thursday after officials received a tip that armed men were headed for the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where votes for the contested presidential election are still being counted.

Philadelphia police arrested two men Thursday night after receiving a tip that an armed group of people were headed for the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where votes are still being counted. 

Around 10:00 p.m., police in Norfolk, Va. notified Philadelphia officers that a group of individuals were traveling from Virginia Beach to Philly in a silver hummer, officials said. Virginia police said the individuals were armed with weapons and ammunition.

RELATED: Looks like the QAnon Hummer in Philly got a PPA ticket, for good measure (and other election memes!)

Later that night, Philly officers spotted a vehicle matching that description parked unattended at 13th Street, and broadcast the info over police radio. Philly bicycle officers stopped two suspects spotted walking near their vehicle on Arch Street. 
The suspects, both male, appeared to be armed.

The first suspect, identified as 61-year-old Antonio Lamotta, had a pistol in a holster on his hip. The other suspect, identified as 42-year-old Joshua Macias, "appeared to have a handgun concealed under his jacket," police said. Lamotta didn't have a permit, and the Macias had a Virginia concealed-carry permit, which is not recognized by the state of Pennsylvania. 

The men said they arrived in the silver hummer and consented to a vehicle search. Police found an AR-style rifle and approximately 160 rounds of ammunition inside the hummer. 

Additional evidence collected from the vehicle remains under review by local and federal investigators. 

Both suspects were taken into police custody and charged Friday with carrying a concealed firearm without a license, a third degree felony, and carrying a firearm on public streets or public property, a first-degree misdemeanor. 

"We will be requesting that both be held without eligibility for bail when they are arraigned later this evening, as this alarming incident is still very much under investigation regarding additional charges," District Attorney Larry Krasner said. 

The silver hummer, which was seized by police, was decorated with a large American flag and stickers promoting QAnon, a conspiracy movement that believes President Donald Trump is fighting a "deep state" and that Democrats are headed by Satan-worshipping pedophiles. 

The Hummer had a large window sticker with the letter "Q" and another with "#WWG1WGA," which stands for the group's slogan "Where we go one we go all," the Inquirer reported.

Reporters at the incident Thursday captured images of the items from the Hummer. 

This case continues to be investigated by the Philadelphia Police Department, the District Attorney's Office, and the FBI.

The incident followed a day of protests outside the Convention Center. Demonstrators responded to recent legal actions by the Trump campaign that attempted to gain greater access for campaign observers inside the convention center. Trump also has called for the vote count to halt. 

One side of protestors, many holding with Biden/Harris signs, argued to "Count Every Vote." Another group, supporting Trump, urged officials to "Stop the Count."

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw and Krasner provided an update on the investigation Friday afternoon, where they said a third suspect who appeared to have traveled to Philly with the two men had not been charged. 

"At this time we do not have indication that the story is bigger than these two individuals. I think it is important to recognize that the Election Task Force in the D.A.'s office and the election efforts of the Philadelphia Police Department were very successful on Election Day on preventing..the suppression of voting in Philadelphia," said Krasner.

"I think it is also worth noting that there was no significant presence, at least to the best of my knowledge, of hate groups, of white supremacists, of Neo-Nazi's. That was not something that was observed out there."

Joe Biden overtook Trump's lead in Pennsylvania on Friday morning. Biden now leads by more than 5,000 votes with about 98% of the expected vote counted, according to the Associated Press

If the race is called for Biden, he will have enough electoral college votes to win the presidency.

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