Washington – Taylor Taranto, a Washington state native who was arrested Thursday near former President Barack Obama’s home with guns and ammunition in his vehicle, will remain in jail pending a hearing next week, a said a magistrate in Washington, DC on Friday.
Taranto was arrested on Thursday as a fugitive from justice after US Secret Service agents spotted him, law enforcement officials briefed on the case told CBS News. He was apprehended before entering a restricted security zone around the former president’s house.
Taranto, 37, is currently facing four misdemeanor counts stemming from the, including unlawful entry into the Capitol building and disorderly conduct. Prosecutors said in court Friday that Taranto had previously attended vigils in support of the defendants detained Jan. 6 outside the Washington, DC jail, but was no longer part of the group. A protest organizer told CBS News that Taranto was “asked to leave” earlier this month due to misconduct near the event.
Taranto was arrested on Thursday and from his nearby van law enforcement later recovered two firearms, 400 rounds of rounds and a machete. No explosives were recovered, but multiple sources familiar with the investigation told CBS News that potentially explosive chemicals were also found.
According to a senior law enforcement official, Taranto had been in Washington, DC, for a few months and was seen camping in his van near the DC jail where many of the Jan. 6 defendants are being held.
Investigators allege in newly unsealed court documents that Taranto attended a rally near the Washington Monument on January 6, 2021 and walked to the Capitol, where he entered through a door that had been breached by rioters. He is accused of walking through the building and entering the President’s lobby around the time Ashli Babbit was shot and killed, court documents reveal.
Prosecutors allege that Taranto and an admitted member of the Jan. 6 mob, David Walls-Kaufman, “got into a fight” with police following the shooting before being kicked out of the Capitol. Once outside, he allegedly stayed on the Capitol grounds and fought with another rioter, “using his cane to push them away,” according to charging documents.
Taranto and Kaufman are also named co-defendants in a civil lawsuit alleging the pair contributed to the death of former Washington, D.C. police officer Jeffrey Smith, who died by suicide days after responding to the capitol breach.
In response to the lawsuit, Taranto admitted he entered the building but said he was a member of the media and did nothing illegal. Investigators say in court documents they have no evidence of his media work and say he was employed as an engineer.
Social media video recovered after the attack shows Taranto saying, “So we’re at the Capitol…we just stormed it,” investigators said. He later reportedly appeared on a live-streaming forum to discuss the events of January 6 and identified himself in an on-screen video, according to court documents.
In court on Friday, Taranto appeared wearing a t-shirt and shorts and spoke only briefly in response to questions from the court.
Prosecutors asked Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey, who appeared virtually, to detain the defendant pending a detention hearing and argued he was at risk of fleeing because he had been living in his van since he had moved to Washington, D.C.
The government said on Friday that investigators had evidence that Taranto once broadcast live near a school in Maryland in order to “send shockwaves” to the state’s Democratic congressman, Jamie Raskin.
Taranto’s public defender told the judge that Taranto’s wife – who still lives in Washington state – was willing to virtually address the court to testify that her husband could live at home again to avoid detention . The defense also offered another alternative to detention — that Taranto could live with his in-laws in Connecticut.
Nonetheless, Harvey has ruled that Taranto, a veteran with no criminal record, will be held pending his next court hearing, scheduled for next week.
The judge added that he had “some concerns about [Taranto’s] mental stability,” a comment that also drew objections from the defense.
Harvey indicated that additional charges could be brought, but reminded prosecutors that none of their recent allegations regarding Taranto’s conduct appeared in the filed complaint.
“Right now he’s charged with offenses from years ago,” the judge told the government, “You’ll be busy, I’m sure.”
Taranto has not yet been indicted.
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