In the days prior to his arrest, Taranto had broadcast threats to blow up the National Institute of Standards and Technology, warned Speaker Kevin McCarthy that he “can’t stop what’s coming,” and entered an elementary school near the Maryland home of Rep. Jamie Raskin while livestreaming apparent threats to the Democratic congressman.
Taranto had been living out of a van for two months before his arrest, traveling from his home state of Washington to the nation’s capital, prosecutors say, after reports that McCarthy had pledged to provide access to Jan. 6 security footage to those charged in the attack. Taranto called McCarthy’s office on June 27, according to the Justice Department in a 26-page filing seeking Taranto’s pretrial detention.
The filing paints a remarkable picture of a man addled by conspiracy theories — who acted so erratically he was banished from a protest site organized by supporters of other Jan. 6 defendants — who had access to an arsenal of weapons prior to his arrest. Prosecutors say Taranto had two firearms in his van: a Smith and Wesson M&P Shield and a Ceska 9mm CZ Scorpion E3. But another 18 guns registered in his name have not yet been recovered, they say.
A June 30 search of the van also uncovered “hundreds of rounds of nine-millimeter ammunition, a steering wheel lock, and a machete.”
In addition, prosecutors worry that Taranto has outside help in covering his tracks.
“Since his arrest, at least two of his social media accounts appear to have either deleted information or been deleted entirely,” they write. “It is unknown at this time who is deleting these accounts, but there is a concern that if released, Taranto will continue to attempt to destroy evidence.”
The episode also underscores the sometimes confoundingly slow pace of arrests pertaining to the Jan. 6 attack, which has strained Justice Department resources as they pursue hundreds of lingering cases. Taranto was spotted in the federal courthouse by U.S. Marshals and an NBC reporter at the sentencing of Jan. 6 defendant David Walls-Kaufman on June 14, engaging in a brusque exchange with court security officials after violating the courthouse’s policy of cell phone use. At the time, Taranto had been identified — for more than a year — as someone who had been in close proximity to Walls-Kaufman on Jan. 6.
Four days after his appearance at the courthouse, on a Sunday, Taranto showed up at Piney Branch Elementary School in Raskin’s Takoma Park neighborhood.
“I didn’t tell anyone where he lives ’cause I want him all to myself,” Taranto told listeners on a livestream, while he and several associates entered the school and used a projector to broadcast a Jan. 6-related film, according to prosecutors.
A day after he called McCarthy’s office, Taranto livestreamed on his YouTube channel that he was in his van in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and planned to detonate explosives at the NIST building. Law enforcement was aware of the threat but indicated that they still struggled to locate him.
“Prior to June 28, 2023, law enforcement was searching for Taranto, but his lack of a fixed address frustrated efforts to find him. Upon seeing his threatening comments, law enforcement escalated efforts to locate Taranto and increased resources to assist in the search,” prosecutors indicated. “However, efforts to locate Taranto that day were unsuccessful.”
Taranto will be in court Wednesday afternoon for a detention hearing.