An armed man arrested near the home of President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, last Thursday was a Navy veteran who has served in combat, branch officials confirmed to Military Times this week.
Law enforcement intercepted Taylor Taranto running toward the former president’s Washington, D.C., residence. Federal prosecutors said he had gotten the Obamas’ address from a Truth Social posting by former President Donald Trump, the Associated Press reported.
Officials later discovered Taranto’s van, parked several blocks away from the Obama household, filled with rifles and more than 400 rounds of ammunition.
Taranto enlisted in the Navy in August 2004, according to his personnel records. He specialized in information warfare before pivoting to naval construction midway through his five-year stint in the sea service. He spent the final years of his service as a member of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3 out of Port Hueneme, California, achieving the rank of E-5 in 2009.
Taranto left the military the following year. Navy officials declined to specify the status of his discharge, citing the Privacy Act. His medals and decorations include a Combat Action Ribbon — accorded to service members who’ve actively participated in ground or surface combat — and an Iraq Campaign Medal, awarded to personnel who served in the Iraq War, according to the Navy.
More than a decade after returning to civilian life, Taranto battled the government for which he once fought. Federal prosecutors claim Taranto joined the mobs marauding through the Capitol’s halls on Jan. 6. Online sleuths first pieced together Taranto’s participation in the breach of the Capitol in 2021.
On Thursday, federal authorities detained the 37-year-old Seattle native on four misdemeanor charges, part of an open warrant against him relating to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, according to the Associated Press.
But the FBI, which had already been monitoring Taranto’s online activities because of his involvement in the riot, began searching for him last Wednesday after he asserted on his YouTube livestream that he was in Gaithersburg, Maryland, on a “one-way mission,” according to the AP. He said he intended to blow up the National Institute of Standards and Technology, according to the Justice Department motion seeking to keep him behind bars and cited by the AP.
The following day, he continued his livestream from the Washington neighborhood where Obama lives — an area heavily monitored by the U.S. Secret Service — and said that he was looking for “entrance points” and wanted to get a “good angle on a shot,” according to the detention memo.
Erin Smith, the widow of a Capitol police officer who died by suicide after defending the building that day, sued Taranto and another man for causing an injury that she says ultimately led to her husband’s decision to take his own life. Taranto attended his co-defendant’s criminal sentencing hearing in D.C. in June, according to court documents.
Later in the month, Taranto saw a TruthSocial message from former President Donald Trump that contained screenshots featuring a purported address for the Obamas’ home in Washington, NBC News reported. Hours before his arrest, Taranto reposted the Trump’s message on the Telegram messaging app, adding “We got these losers surrounded! See you in hell, Podesta’s and Obama’s,” the Associated Press reported.
John Podesta served as counselor to President Barack Obama, chaired Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president in 2016, and served as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff. Podesta is also the chief villain of the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, a foundational myth of the QAnon movement that spuriously accused high-ranking members of the Democratic Party (including Podesta) of abusing children in the basement of a basement-less D.C. pizza shop.
Jaime Moore-Carrillo is an editorial fellow for Military Times and Defense News. A Boston native, Jaime graduated with degrees in international affairs, history, and Arabic from Georgetown University, where he served as a senior editor for the school's student-run paper, The Hoya.