Navy veteran who was “looking for a shot” in woods near Obama’s home is denied bail

A screenshot from Taylor Taranto's livestream prior to his arrest. (Twitter video below)

Update: A federal magistrate judge ruled the Navy veteran who was arrested with guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition near former President Obama’s home will remain in jail on Wednesday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui agreed with federal prosecutors that Taylor Taranto represents a danger to the community if he is released. 

Taranto’s lawyer said they will pursue an appeal.

Earlier:

Cory McCoy
Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)

Jul. 5—New court documents reveal that the Eastern Washington man arrested outside a former president’s home was “looking for a shot” and had recently threatened at least two other lawmakers.

The court documents filed ahead of an expected appearance Wednesday in a Washington, D.C., courtroom reveal the extent and seriousness of threats Taylor Taranto of Pasco, made against lawmakers before his arrest last week on a misdemeanor warrant related to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Prosecutors are asking that Taranto, 37, be held without bail because of the severity of those threats and his risk to flee.

He is expected to remain in custody while District of Columbia Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui decides whether he can be held without bond without new charges.

His court-appointed attorneys said Taranto should be released on bail, and have asked the judge to consider only his misdemeanor charges related to the insurrection to determine his risk unless new charges are filed.

In that case, Taranto’s bail would likely fall in line with other Jan. 6 rioters, many of whom were granted bail and released into the custody of relatives or third parties.

His wife has flown to D.C. to attend the hearings, and to ask the judge to name her Taranto’s third-party supervisor, according to a report from WUSA9.

The warrant for Taranto’s arrest for his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection was issued last Thursday morning, just hours before his arrest outside former president Barack Obama’s Kalorama neighborhood home.

Taranto is also a co-defendant in a wrongful death civil lawsuit brought by the widow of a D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer.

Court documents show federal agents were already searching for him after Taranto made multiple threats to turn his van into a bomb to attack lawmakers and a federal building.

Guns, hundreds of rounds of ammo, and materials to make explosives were found in his van after Taranto was arrested.

Taranto is a one-time Pasco school board candidate and the former webmaster for the Franklin County Republican Party. He had been traveling back and forth between the Tri-Cities and D.C. over the past two years to participate in various protests, according to now-deleted social media videos.

Bombing threats

FBI agents monitoring Taranto’s social media accounts spotted a livestream on June 28 in which he claimed to be heading to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, indicating he planned to blow up his vehicle, according to investigators.

Taranto indicated he had a detonator and that he was on a “‘one-way mission’ and the vehicle was self-driving so he would not have to be anywhere near it when it ‘went off.'”

He also is accused of having contacted McCarthy’s office on June 27 demanding to be shown Jan. 6 footage. In a Jan. 6, 2022, interview with the Herald Taranto said that he believed Congress was hiding footage.

In the June 28 livestream Taranto made threats against McCarthy, indicating he would use the van to bomb him.

Taranto is alleged to have said, “Coming at you McCarthy. Nothing can stop what’s coming” during the livestream where he claimed he and others were “working on the van.”

Investigators said law enforcement was looking for Taranto after the threats, but unable to find him because he was living in the van.

He also had been documented threatening Congressman Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, at an elementary school near the lawmaker’s home.

Raskin was a member of the Jan. 6 House Select Committee investigating the attack and also helped lead impeachment efforts against former president Donald Trump.

“I didn’t tell anyone where he lives ’cause I want him all to myself,” Taranto said in a livestream at Piney Branch Elementary School in Takoma Park, Maryland, on June 18.

Taranto is accused of being part of a group that was walking around the school, at one point entered the gymnasium and used a projector to display a film related to Jan. 6.

Taranto, while answering questions from viewers, said he chose the school because it was near Raskin’s home and that he specifically targeted Raskin due to his stance against rioters.

“He’s one of the guys that hates January 6 people, or more like Trump supporters, and it’s kind of like sending a shockwave through him because I did nothing wrong and he’s probably freaking out and saying shit like, ‘Well he’s stalking me,’ Taranto said during the livestream, according to court documents.

Threats against Obama

On the morning of June 29, FBI agents saw social media activity from Taranto’s account posting conspiracy theories about the Obama residence and the address.

“We got these losers surrounded! See you in hell, Podesta’s and Obama’s,” Taranto said in a livestream, according to court documents.

Shortly after, he began livestreaming himself walking around in the neighborhood.

According to the documents Taranto made it clear he intended to access or enter the homes of the Obamas or John Podesta, a chief of staff for former president Bill Clinton.

Taranto stated he was “trying to get interviews” according to investigators. He made repeated claims during the video that his actions were protected by the First Amendment.

When he was initially approached by Secret Service agents, Taranto allegedly told them, “Hello, just trying to get an angle, for First Amendment, free speech. Thanks. That’s Secret Service, she’s all right. See how it works? Just say, ‘First Amendment.'”

Taranto also made multiple statements about “getting a shot.”

* “Gotta get the shot, stop at nothing to get the shot. This is where other people come to get the shot.”

* “We’re gonna see what we can get, as a shot. If I were them, I’d be watching this, watching my every move.”

* “This is where everyone goes to get the shot. It’s just me today though. This is an easy way around. Yeah, they can’t stop me from walking through here. Just don’t step foot on the street.”

He also reportedly said, “I control the block, we’ve got ’em surrounded,” and “Oh, is this intimidating? I don’t think so.”

Secret Service agents was monitoring Taranto as soon as he came into the neighborhood, according to documents. After seeing Secret Service agents he reportedly veered off the street into a wooded area and walked toward the street the Obama home is on.

As agents approached Taranto he began to run, but was caught and placed under arrest.

After his arrest, the FBI bomb squad and D.C. Metro Police K9 officers were called in. The K9 alerted for gun powder on the van and a search warrant was sought.

Two guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were found in the van. According to the documents, Taranto has 20 firearms registered to him. The ones found in the van were a Smith and Wesson M&P Shield and a Ceska 9mm CZ Scorpion E3. The other 18 guns have not been found.

They also found a machete, the “Make Space Great Again” hat that helped identify Taranto during the Capitol riot and a mattress and other items indicating he was living in the van.

It’s unclear what explosive materials were found, but other news reports citing law enforcement described it as material to make Molotov cocktails.

Destroying evidence

Prosecutors argue that Taranto had abandoned his life to continue to pursue the goals of the insurrection, and represented a particularly high flight risk and danger to the community.

“Unlike many other January 6 misdemeanor defendants, Taranto, acting on the same impulses that drove his actions on January 6, 2021, has continued to pursue the objectives of the riot while making numerous and varied threats at the same time he possessed firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and a machete.”

“Unlike many other misdemeanor defendants, Taranto left his family and a stable residence to act on his impulses, chose to live without a home or fixed address, could not be located by law enforcement, and attempted to flee from Secret Service personnel.”

Taranto is also accused of working with others to destroy evidence.

After his arrest last week, several social media profiles belonging to Taranto and his wife were either taken down or restricted.

Many social media platforms have policies around taking down profiles after mass shootings and other events, but the investigators seem to believe that in this case, Taranto is collaborating with others to destroy the evidence. They believe that if Taranto is released, he will destroy more evidence.

He is currently facing four misdemeanor charges related to the warrant for his Jan. 6 involvement. It is unclear what charges he could be facing for his recent actions. Taranto is expected to be in court this week.

In Washington state, the Franklin County Republican Central Committee had grown so concerned about his behavior that he was barred from participation in the organization that he had once managed the web presence for.

This story was originally published July 5, 2023, 12:55 PM.

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