A Capitol rioter died by suicide as he was awaiting sentencing on charges of witness tampering, entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds and two counts of disorderly conduct, officials said.
“Matthew Lawrence Perna died on February 25, 2022 of a broken heart,” his family said in an obituary. “His community of him (which he loved), his country of him, and the justice system killed his spirit of him and his zest for life.”
The Mercer County Coroner’s office confirmed to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Perna, 37, of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, died by suicide. NBC News has reached out to the coroner for comment.
The obituary said Perna attended the Jan. 6, 2021 riot “to peacefully stand up for his beliefs,” and upon learning the FBI was looking for him, “he immediately turned himself in.”
He pleaded guilty to all the charges against him in December. Sentencing was set for April 1, court records show.
The obituary said he entered the Capitol through a previously opened door and he did not break, touch or steal anything, but 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,” the obituary said.
The obituary pointed to the long prosecution process as a role in his death.
“The constant delays in hearings, and postponements dragged out for over a year. Because of this, Matt’s heart broke and his spirit died, ”the obituary said.
Perna traveled from Pennsylvania to Washington, DC, to attend former President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally and marched with others to the Capitol building afterward, according to a statement of offense.
He told police that when he reached the top of the steps on the building’s west side, he was surprised to find the door open. He claimed he was pushed into the building by a crowd that gathered behind him.
Screengrabs of video footage from inside the building showed Perna wearing a red hoodie emblazoned with the phrase “Make America Great Again.”
He was in the building for 20 minutes and was seen filming the riot on his phone chanting “USA! USA!” with the crowd, the statement of offense said.
That same day I posted a video on Facebook with two others in a hotel room. I have claimed that individuals with Antifa were “chiefly” responsible for breaking the doors and windows at the Capitol, according to court documents.
He then said, “It’s not over, trust me. The purpose of today was to expose Pence as a traitor,” the documents stated.
Perna was one of the individuals the FBI shared photographs of, asking for the public’s help to identify them. A person familiar with Perna recognized him and flagged him to police, saying Perna’s Facebook posts had indicated his support of him for Trump and QAnon.
Perna was a Penn State University graduate who loved to travel and previously lived in Thailand and South Korea, the obituary stated.
“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 a different view,” the obituary said.
Perna’s family supported him amid the charges.
“His actions last year are not looked down upon, instead his family is grateful and humbled by his courage,” the obituary said.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism