(CNN)From the mob, a seemingly unidentifiable hand reaches out with a Taser, in an attack that would leave DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone begging for his life.
“I was beaten from, like, every direction. And then tased a number of times on the back of my neck,” Fanone would later tell CNN, adding that he suffered a heart attack from the Taser assault. “I just remember yelling out that I have kids.”
Forrest Rogers and the other internet sleuths known as the “Deep State Dogs” saw the interview and were determined to find out who was behind the Taser attack.
“I could not rest until he was apprehended, especially after seeing his first interview with CNN,” Rogers, the Deep State Dogs spokesman, said. “It broke my heart.”
They compiled video evidence on the Taser suspect showing him — frame-by-frame — reaching out and briefly holding the Taser to Fanone’s neck. Then they traced the man through the January 6 crowd, revealing clear images of the suspect’s face. Others on social media pitched in to help determine the man’s identity.
“You can see him reaching out — the suspect reaching out — putting the Taser on Officer Fanone’s neck, holding it very briefly,” Rogers said. “If this video was not single-framed, it would have — no one would have been able to have seen this, probably.”
They delivered their findings to the FBI, as well as a Huffington Post reporter, who further vetted the alleged attacker’s identity: Daniel Rodriguez. Rodriguez now faces eight charges, including assaulting Fanone, and has pleaded not guilty.
The Deep State Dogs are just one group in a sprawling social media community dedicated to rooting out insurrectionists after January 6. Experts and members of the community describe it as diverse and diffuse but united by a common goal: Accountability. But their efforts are also a rebuttal to Republicans looking to whitewash the horrifying events of that January day.
“Every time I hear a lawmaker try to downplay what happened, I think of the fear on their faces, and the pictures and footage we have of them fleeing from what was going on. And I know that they remember it too,” said John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, who has also worked to help identify insurrectionists.
“This was a trauma for them, whatever they’re saying now,” he added. “And so, it’s especially galling to watch them try to rewrite history.”
A community of online sleuths
More than 450 people have been arrested in connection with the events on January 6 and the FBI has released videos and images, actively seeking the public’s help in identifying members of the mob.
“As we have seen with dozens of cases so far, the tips matter,” Samantha Shero, an FBI spokeswoman said in a statement. “As demonstrated by these arrests, the public has provided tremendous assistance to this investigation, and we are asking for continued help to identify other individuals for their role in the violence at the US Capitol.”
But it’s not always clear whether the efforts of online sedition hunters contributed to an investigation or if the FBI was already looking into suspects identified by internet sleuths. The indictment against Rodriguez, for instance, does not mention the Deep State Dogs. It’s unclear if the FBI had already identified him as a suspect, although an earlier “seeking information” alert from the FBI does not include Rodriguez’s photo among the suspects law enforcement was searching for.
Either way, Rodriguez’s arrest was a gratifying moment for the group.
“It was a very rewarding feeling to know that there will possibly be justice served for the person who attacked Officer Fanone,” Rogers said.
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