14 July 2023

Capitol riot suspect arrested near Obama home indicted on firearms charges

14 July 2023

A Capitol riot suspect who had guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in his van when he was arrested near former president Barack Obama’s Washington home has been indicted on federal firearms charges, authorities have said.

Taylor Taranto, 37, was already facing misdemeanour charges stemming from his alleged involvement in the January 6 2021 riot, and a grand jury indicted him on additional felony charges alleging he illegally carried a firearm without a licence and unlawfully possessed a large-capacity ammunition feeding device, prosecutors said.

A magistrate judge earlier this week ruled that Taranto, of Pasco, Washington, must remain behind bars while he awaits trial because he would pose a danger to the community if released. Taranto’s lawyer Kathryn Guevara has said she will appeal against that decision.

Ms Guevara has said that her client had been receiving mental health treatment to overcome trauma that he experienced during military service. He deployed to Iraq while serving in the Navy and was driving a combat vehicle in a convoy that was hit by enemy missiles, she said.

Taranto was arrested on June 29 after prosecutors say he arrived in Mr Obama’s neighbourhood on the same day that former president Donald Trump posted on his social media platform what he claimed was Mr Obama’s home address.

While livestreaming on YouTube in the area, Taranto told followers that he was looking for “entrance points,” was going to find a way to the “tunnels underneath their houses” and wanted to get a “good angle on a shot”, according to court papers.

Officials said he was spotted by police a few blocks from Mr Obama’s home and fled, though he was chased by Secret Service officers.

In his van — which investigators say he appeared to be living in — Taranto had two guns, 400 rounds of ammunition as well as a machete, prosecutors have said. Taranto’s wife told investigators that he had come to Washington because of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s offer earlier this year to produce unseen video of the January 6 attack.

Taranto’s arrest came the day after investigators say he asserted on his YouTube livestream that he was in Gaithersburg, Maryland, on a “one-way mission” and suggested that he intended to blow up his van at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

On the day of the riot, authorities say Taranto joined the crush of people who broke into the Capitol. He was captured on video at the entrance of the Speaker’s Lobby around the time that Ashli Babbitt was fatally shot by an officer while attempting to climb through the broken window of a barricaded door.

Taranto’s lawyer told the judge earlier this week that her client was talking about tunnels near Mr Obama’s home “in a joking manner” because the subject has been fodder for conspiracy theories.

She said in court papers that comments he made about getting the “the shot” or “angle” while near Obama’s house were only in reference to the livestream video he was taking at the time.

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