Man arrested near Obama home threatened other prominent lawmakers, officials say

‘Taranto’s own words and actions demonstrate that he is a direct threat to multiple political figures as well as the public at large,’ prosecutors say

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Wednesday 05 July 2023 21:21 BST

Related video: Armed man arrested near Barack Obama’s home

The armed man arrested near the home of former President Barack Obama also threatened other lawmakers, according to federal prosecutors.

Taylor Taranto, 37, was arrested in the Kalorama neighbourhood of Washington DC on 29 June after making online threats against Mr Obama. Materials to make Molotov cocktails were located in his vehicle. Mr Taranto is also alleged to have suggested that he was going to attempt to enter Mr Obama’s home via “tunnels”.

Mr Taranto has also recently recorded himself threatening Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California and Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland. He had also suggested that he was going to attack a facility holding a nuclear research reactor in the Maryland suburbs, prosecutors revealed on Wednesday, according to The Washington Post.

The prosecutors requested that a judge put Mr Taranto in jail pending a trial. He managed to evade law enforcement for almost a day before his arrest on 29 June in a wooded area close to the Obama residence.

Assistant US Attorneys Allison Ethen and Colin Cloherty stated in a 26-page detention memo that “Taranto is a direct and serious threat to the public. Taranto’s own words and actions demonstrate that he is a direct threat to multiple political figures as well as the public at large”.

“The risk that Taranto poses if released is high, and the severity of the consequences that could result are catastrophic,” they added.

A gun found in the van of Taylor Taranto, according to prosecutors

Prosecutors said law enforcement was searching for Mr Taranto before 28 June, but he was living in his van, making him harder to locate.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Katie Guevara said on Friday that Mr Taranto had lived in Washington state since 2008 with his wife. He had visited Washington DC this year following an offer by Mr McCarthy for January 6 defendants to see footage from the 2021 insurrection.

The public defender added that Mr Taranto’s wife and her parents in Connecticut would house him ahead of a trial, noting that he had no previous criminal history.

Prosecutors said on Wednesday that the FBI had been following Mr Taranto’s online presence because of his actions during the Capitol riot when they found his live stream on 28 June when he appeared to be driving to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency within the Commerce Department in Gaithersburg, Maryland, about 15 miles north of DC.

Taylor Taranto, center, at the US Capitol on Jan 6, 2021

In that live stream, Mr Taranto said that he was planning on detonating his van at the institute. He said he was on a “one-way mission”, claiming that the van had a self-driving function meaning that he could be far away from the vehicle when it eventually “went off”.

The FBI search began at that time. The next day, prosecutors got a warrant on four misdemeanour counts of trespassing and disorderly conduct at the Capitol in relation to the Capitol riot.

Mr Taranto was found after he started live streaming again, this time close to the Obama home on the day of his eventual arrest – 29 June.

He was walking around the neighbourhood saying that he was searching for “entrance points” and “tunnels underneath their houses”, prosecutors said.

He claimed to have “control” of the area and said on several occasions that he was trying to get a “shot” and a “good angle on a shot”.

Mr Taranto was monitored by the Secret Service at the time and was subsequently detained.

An FBI bomb squad and a DC police K-9 team were sent out to inspect the van, a black 2000 Chevrolet.

A police dog alerted officers to gunpowder, according to prosecutors. A search turned up a machete, two handguns, and 400 rounds of ammunition.

Mr Taranto had 20 firearms registered to his name with the locations of 18 being unknown.

Handgun found in the van of Taylor Taranto near the home of Barack Obama

Mr Taranto said that he had been living in his van and taking part in demonstrations in support of January 6 defendants outside the jail in DC. Late last month, the other protesters made him depart, claiming that his behaviour had grown erratic and that he had attempted to show a video of the death of Ashli Babbitt on January 6 to her mother.

In a video, he has supported a conspiracy theory that Ms Babbitt’s death after being shot by police during the Capitol riot had been a hoax and that those around her at the time were actors.

Mr Taranto also took to social media sharing the lie that the 2020 election was riddled with fraud. He also supported conspiracy theories and rejected the authority of federal, state, and local governments over his land, according to the federal prosecutors.

Prosecutors also allege that Mr Taranto entered Piney Branch Elementary School in Takoma Park, Maryland, on 18 June and showed a film about January 6. He’s alleged to have chosen the school because of its proximity to the home of Mr Raskin, a top Democratic critic of former President Donald Trump.

The detention memo says that Mr Taranto recorded himself stating that he went after Mr Raskin because “he’s one of the guys that hates January 6 people, or more like Trump supporters, and it’s kind of like sending a shock wave through him because I did nothing wrong and he’s probably freaking out”.

Just over a week later, a video was published on his YouTube channel showing him playing an audio recording on his phone in which he’s allegedly asking Mr McCarthy’s office to be shown footage from the Capitol riot.

Prosecutors said that during the live stream made during his drive to NIST, Mr Taranto “made ominous comments referencing Speaker McCarthy”.

“Coming at you McCarthy. Can’t stop what’s coming. Nothing can stop what’s coming,” he said.

Prosecutors have said that during Mr Taranto’s detention, his YouTube seems to have been removed by an unknown individual.

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