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Taylor Taranto, Jan. 6 defendant arrested with 2 guns and machete near Obama's D.C. home, to remain detained

Sources: Man arrested near Obama’s D.C. home
Man with weapons, explosives arrested near Obama's D.C. home, sources say 01:38
File: Taylor Taranto, shown on Jan. 6, 2021 during U.S. Capitol riot. Government exhibit

Washington — Washington state native Taylor Taranto, arrested near former President Barack Obama's home Thursday with weapons and ammunition in his vehicle, will remain in jail pending a hearing next week, a magistrate judge in Washington, D.C., ruled Friday.

Taranto was taken into custody on Thursday as a fugitive from justice after U.S. Secret Service agents spotted him within blocks of Obama's residence, law enforcement officials briefed on the matter told CBS News. He was apprehended before entering a restricted security zone around the former president's home. 

The 37-year-old Taranto currently faces four misdemeanor counts stemming from the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, including illegal entry into the Capitol building and disorderly conduct. Prosecutors said in court Friday that Taranto had previously attended vigils in support of detained Jan. 6 defendants outside the Washington, D.C., jail, but was no longer part of the group. An organizer of the protest told CBS News that Taranto was "asked to leave" earlier this month because of misconduct near the event.

Taranto was taken into custody on Thursday and in his nearby van, law enforcement subsequently recovered two guns, 400 rounds of ammunition, and a machete. No explosives were recovered, but multiple sources familiar with the investigation told CBS News potentially explosive chemicals were also found. 

According to a senior law enforcement official, Taranto had been in Washington, D.C., area for a couple of months and was seen camping out in his van near the D.C. 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 Jan. 6, 2021, and walked toward the Capitol, where he entered through a door that had been breached by rioters. He is accused of moving through the building and into the Speaker's lobby around the time Ashli Babbit was shot and killed, court papers reveal.

Prosecutors allege Taranto and an admitted member of the Jan. 6 mob, David Walls-Kaufman, "scuffled" with police in the aftermath of the shooting before they were forced out of the Capitol. Once outside, he allegedly remained on Capitol grounds and fought with another rioter, "using his cane to fend them off," according to charging documents. 

Taranto and Kaufman are also named as codefendants 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 he responded to the Capitol breach.

In response to the lawsuit, Taranto admitted he had entered the building but said he was a member of the media and had done nothing illegal. Investigators say in court papers they have no proof of his work in the media and say he was employed as an engineer. 

Social media video recovered after the attack shows Taranto saying, "So we're in the Capitol…we just stormed it," investigators said. He later allegedly appeared on a live stream forum discussing the events of Jan. 6 and identified himself in video on-screen, court filings say. 

File: Jan. 6 suspect Taylor Tarranto says in live stream on Jan. 6, 2021, "So we're in the Capitol Building ... we just stormed it." Screen shot from government exhibit

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 is a flight risk because he has been living in his van since he moved to Washington, D.C.

The government said Friday that investigators have evidence Taranto previously live-streamed himself near a Maryland school in order to "send a shockwave" 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 attest that her husband would be able to 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.

Nevertheless, Harvey ruled that Taranto, a military veteran with no criminal record, would be detained pending his next hearing, scheduled for next week. 

The judge added that he had "some concerns about [Taranto's] mental stability," a comment which also drew objections from the defense. 

Harvey indicated additional charges could be brought, but reminded prosecutors that none of their recent allegations about Taranto's conduct are listed in the filed complaint. 

"Right now, he's charged with offenses from years ago," the judge said to the government, "You'll be busy, I'm sure." 

Taranto has not yet been arraigned.

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