FREEPORT, Ill. (WTVO) — The Stephenson County Sheriff released a statement Thursday morning denouncing the Oath Keepers and taking issue with a Chicago Sun-Times report linking Chief Deputy Andrew Schroeder to the group.

“The recent allegations about Stephenson County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Andrew Schroeder, are false and are lacking in true facts,” Stephenson County Sheriff Steven Stovall said in a press release.

In an article published on Tuesday, the Sun-Times and WBEZ investigated ties between the anti-government militia group and active police officers in the state of Illinois.

Schroeder’s name was reportedly found in leaked membership data for the group, the report says.

On Thursday, Stovall said Schroeder told him in October 2022 that a Chicago reporter was investigating his connection to the Oath Keepers.

“The true facts that I learned during my thorough investigation, which took place over 1 year ago, are that in approximately 2010 an Illinois Army National Guard member that Andrew Schroeder served with advised him of a group called the Oath Keepers. This group was reported to Andrew Schroeder to be pro-law enforcement, pro-military, and a way to interact with fellow law enforcement officers and military personnel. Andrew Schroeder received a link to join the group and did so,” Stovall said in a statement. “After approximately 1 year, 2011, Andrew Schroeder changed his email address and had no further contact with the group. During his brief membership Andrew Schroeder never attended any meetings and did not knowingly have any contact with any members.”

The Oath Keepers was founded in 2009 by Elmer Stewart Rhodes, who was later convicted of seditious conspiracy for his role in the January 6th riot at the U.S. Capitol. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the group billed “itself as a nonpartisan group of current and retired law enforcement and military personnel who vow to fulfill their oaths to the Constitution.”

Several members, including Rhodes, were prosecuted for conspiracy in efforts to interfere with the 2020 presidential election.

“What the ‘reporter’ failed to report from his FOIA requests was that Andrew Schroeder is a Military Veteran who has proudly served his country, he has a 25+ year career in Law Enforcement that has been nothing short of exemplary, and his service to the community stands for itself,” Stovall continued.

“I denounce the Oath Keepers and all they represent, as does Chief Deputy Andrew Schroeder,” he said.

Schroeder, a military veteran, is vice chair of the Stephenson County Republican Central Committee and a former county board member.

According to the Freeport Journal-Standard, Jodi Coss, chair of the Stephenson County Democratic Party, is investigating whether Schroeder’s alleged ties to the group are a violation of the sheriff’s department’s code of conduct.