The man in the red “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” hat seemed to think he was untouchable. He joined the mob as they yelled “HEAVE! HO!” and tried to force their way through a police line into the Capitol building. Once inside, he used a pole to ram against a window, trying to shatter it and bring more people into the Capitol. In the most disturbing footage of all, he was caught on camera appearing to shock D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Mike Fanone with a stun gun. As rioters push Fanone down the stairs and away from other cops, video shows the man in the red cap pressing a small black device against the officer’s neck. Fanone instantly drops to the ground, swallowed by the mob.
The story of Fanone’s battle with Donald Trump supporters trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election went viral soon after their Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Fanone self-deployed to the Capitol that day, hoping to aid his fellow officers in a fight he’d later describe as “some medieval shit.” Fanone recalled a man yelling to other rioters to kill him with his own gun. “I have kids!” Fanone screamed, wondering if he’d ever see his four daughters again. He was beaten. He described being hit in the neck with a stun gun. He suffered a mild heart attack.
His assailant in the red MAGA hat, who has been at large since the insurrection, is 38-year-old Daniel Joseph Rodriguez from Fontana, California, HuffPost can confirm.
Rodriguez, who goes by “Danny” and “DJ,” is well known among Trump supporters in the Los Angeles area as a superfan of the former president. Multiple news outlets have featured him in their coverage of the local pro-Trump movement in recent years, in articles that included his name and photo. He regularly attended the weekly Trump rallies in Beverly Hills last year. He was recognizable there by his dark-rimmed glasses and the many distinctive pins on his hat, which has a big GOP elephant symbol on the brim.
Videos from the attack on the Capitol, as highlighted by the sleuthing group Deep State Dogs and anti-fascist activists, show a man who’s identical to Rodriguez wearing the same glasses, hat, pins and sticker. In the clip of him trying to bust out the window, he yells, “Get in here!” Another video shows him picking up furniture and distributing it to fellow rioters, seemingly to use as battering tools.
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Two separate anti-fascist activists ― as well as a third witness who supported Trump and called himself a former friend of Rodriguez ― reviewed footage of the man at the Capitol and told HuffPost they recognized Rodriguez from the California rallies.
The FBI received tips about Rodriguez last month, including one from a man he assaulted on video at a Los Angeles-area rally. But it wasn’t until hours after a HuffPost inquiry to the bureau for this story that the tipster heard from an FBI special agent with questions specifically about a man named “Danny Rodriguez.”
The lack of public law enforcement action against Rodriguez thus far illustrates the tensions that can arise when the FBI relies on online sleuths to help them identify the hundreds of suspects in their unprecedented investigation into the Capitol attacks. The FBI wants photos of Capitol insurrections to go viral, and has published images of more than 200 suspects. But what happens when online sleuthing communities identify suspects and then see weeks go by without any signs of action?
The extent of the sprawling FBI investigation is difficult to comprehend. There are hundreds of suspects, thousands of hours of video, hundreds of thousands of tips, and millions of pieces of evidence. It’s a logistical nightmare, one the FBI’s bureaucracy isn’t necessarily designed to keep organized. The cases the feds continue to churn out are a mixed bag. Some reveal serious, well-organized criminal conspiracies, while others are easy misdemeanor cases against suspects who openly bragged about their criminal activity on social media. Some tipsters who called the FBI in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack didn’t hear back from the bureau until February.
But the evidence pointing to Rodriguez is overwhelming. HuffPost obtained screenshots of Telegram chats that show the users “DJ Rodriguez” and “Gina Bisignano” in a group discussing their alleged involvement in the riot. Bisignano, a Beverly Hills salon owner, was arrested more than a month ago after she was filmed and photographed on Jan. 6 using a megaphone to encourage “strong, angry patriots” to come up and battle with police. Activists say she and Rodriguez are associates who have attended the same Trump rallies.
“Come on, guys. We need patriots! You guys, it’s the way in. We need some people, we need some people,” Bisignano told the mob as they battled officers, according to charging documents in her case. (Bisignano, who wore a Louis Vuitton sweater to the Capitol attack, was in government custody, but a federal judge ruled Friday that she could be released pre-trial under very strict conditions.)
Two other defendants who have been arrested in connection with the Capitol attack ― fringe doctor Simone Gold and fashion model John Strand ― also took part in the pro-Trump protests in Beverly Hills. Rodriguez, Strand, Gold and Bisignano are all part of a larger cell of extremists who attended pro-Trump events in Beverly Hills and then stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Rodriguez and Bisignano took photos in D.C. with a man who Los Angeles activists say also frequented Beverly Hills Trump rallies and went by the name “Trump Ed” online. “Trump Ed,” whose full name has been publicized by antifascist activists, is seen on video smashing windows outside the Capitol as Bisignano looks on. Another individual, who online sleuths have nicknamed #SwedishScarf, was also recorded with Bisignano at the Capitol, with Rodriguez at protests in Huntington Beach against California’s COVID-related curfews, at pro-Trump events in Beverly Hills and at anti-mask events in the Los Angeles area.
In 2018, Rodriguez was named, photographed and quoted in a local news story about anti-Trump protests during the then-president’s brief visit to Los Angeles.
“Trump’s coming to town,” Rodriguez said at the time, noting he’d skipped work to watch Trump’s motorcade go by. “I’m using a sick day.”
Information on Rodriguez’s Facebook page ― which features pro-Trump, anti-Muslim, and right-wing memes, as well as postings about the “deep state” and a 2017 YouTube video about how “Pedophiles Rule the World” ― matches the birth month and year in public records for Rodriguez, as well as the locations where he has resided. His Facebook profile also lists a high school, North Canyon High School in Phoenix; the school’s 2002 yearbook includes his name.
When HuffPost called a cellphone number registered to Rodriguez to seek comment, the person who answered quickly hung up and did not respond to text messages. Messages that HuffPost sent to a Telegram account under Rodriguez’s name ― which previously featured a selfie of Rodriguez posing in the same glasses and Trump MAGA hat he wore during the attack on the U.S. Capitol ― went unanswered.
The car linked to Rodriguez, which he was often seen driving at the California rallies, was sold last month. It featured “1776” and “III%” stickers, the latter of which the government has labeled a “radical militia group” and “anti-government patriot movement.” The group’s name refers to the myth that only 3% of Americans took up arms against the British government during the Revolution.
More than a month after Rodriguez was first positively identified online, the sleuths who IDed him are getting a bit restless. Joining a mob attacking a police line and smashing out a Capitol window ― let alone using a stun gun on a police officer who thought he was about to be killed by a pro-Trump mob ― is the type of behavior that should get the bureau’s attention. But they’d seen no evidence of progress on the case.
When the FBI put out photos of people wanted in connection with the attack on Fanone last month, they didn’t include a photo of Rodriguez, even though three of the images ― of suspects #112, #113, and #114, shown below ― are taken from the same video that shows Rodriguez pressing a black device with what look like two metal prongs to Fanone’s neck.
None of the suspects whom the FBI identified more than a month ago as being associated with the attack on Fanone are listed as arrested on the bureau’s website. The only currently public case that mentions the attack on Fanone is against Vitali GossJankowski, a Trump-supporting student from Gallaudet University who joined the mob and was seen holding a stun gun. GossJankowski told officials he did not use the stun gun against Fanone, and a federal grand jury recently indicted him for being armed with the device during an attack on a Capitol Police officer, but not on Fanone. (GossJankowski can be seen in the background of a photo of Fanone being surrounded by a mob.)
Kristen Metzger, a spokesperson for the MPD, said the “robbery and assault of MPD Officer Michael Fanone is currently under active investigation by the Metropolitan Police Department,” but that “no arrests have been made at this time.”
The footage of the attack on Fanone was included in a video, titled “FULL FOOTAGE: Patriots STORM U.S. Capitol,” that was first posted by the white supremacist website VDARE (which was banned from YouTube last year). VDARE later produced a video titled “CAPITOL ‘INSURRECTION’ HOAX” that highlights their footage of non-white participants in the Capitol attack.
The FBI doesn’t give updates on ongoing cases, and an official had no comment about the status of any potential investigation into Rodriguez. But there are a few possible explanations for what’s going on. One potential scenario is that the FBI has already identified Rodriguez and is working on a broader case against him, and possibly against other defendants who coordinated with Rodriguez, Bisignano and other Los Angeles-area Trump extremists. But a delay of more than a month would be significant, especially if one of the defendants was filmed assaulting a police officer.
Another possibility is that the bureau initially overlooked the clip of Rodriguez raising a device to Fanone’s neck. The attack happens quickly: Just a few seconds pass between when we first see Rodriguez holding the small device in his right hand and when he presses it up to Fanone’s neck. Some of the action takes place briefly out of frame.
Forrest Rogers didn’t miss what happened. The German-American business consultant, who serves as spokesperson for the Deep State Dogs group, teamed up with an associate and used video editing software to edit the high-quality footage of the assault on Fanone. He zoomed in, slowed it down, and went about trying to identify the man whom Deep State Dogs members were calling “Taser Prick.”
The Deep State Dogs team has done this before. Rogers and his team correctly identified Rachel Powell ― the Pennsylvania woman known as #BullhornLady ― seen smashing in Capitol windows and giving rioters instructions over a megaphone. Ronan Farrow broke the story of Powell’s identity in The New Yorker, citing Deep State Dogs’ work.
Once the Deep State Dogs team published their video, it was spotted by @waterspider__, an antifascist activist who told HuffPost they’d been following members of the Beverly Hills Freedom Rallies group since last summer. @waterspider__ teamed up with another antifascist activist, @desertborder, to identify any members of the group who went to the Trump rally. They instantly recognized Danny Rodriguez, in his custom MAGA hat, whom they’d already IDed on Jan. 15 in a video where he’s seen smashing out a window.
But more than a month after Rodriguez was IDed, the online sleuths who compiled the case against him are still waiting on federal action.
“It’s the unknown that’s sometimes frustrating,” Rogers said. “The FBI can’t say to me, ‘OK, Forrest, we’ve got it under control, your team can move on to the next one.’ But this is what kind of slows down the process for us.”
Rogers said he certainly recognizes the “mammoth” task facing the FBI in its “unprecedented” hunt for hundreds of criminals spread across the country, and that online sleuth groups like his just want to be as helpful as they can. “We are here in a support function to provide them the information that is necessary to bring these people to justice,” Rogers said.
Although the FBI has not yet apprehended him, Rodriguez seems to believe it’s coming soon.
“Assume everyone who went to DC or talked to someone who went to DC now has their phones tapped and monitored ... please don’t ask or talk about anything that you don’t want the fbi knowing,” the user “Dj Rodriguez” — whose profile features a selfie that appears to show Rodriguez wearing his glasses, MAGA hat and pins — wrote in a small pro-Trump Telegram channel in the days after the attack. “Congratulations everyone we’re being watched.”
In another message, the same user wrote: “1776 is back! I survived the taking of the US Capitol and got this tshirt With picture of the capital.”
Rodriguez’s history of violence is well documented, though he has no violent criminal record. In footage from a Beverly Hills Trump rally in August, he can be seen grabbing the wheelchair of Black Lives Matter demonstrator Xander Mozejewski and dragging him away from a police line.
“You pulled me out of my wheelchair — what did I do?” Mozejewski asks his assailant in a subsequent clip. Rodriguez, whose face is clearly visible in this video, screams back: “I’ll grab you again! I’ll do it again! Act like a fucking adult!”
Mozejewski told HuffPost he’d never met Rodriguez before that encounter, and has no idea why he seemed to single him out. Since then, Mozejewski has been collecting and compiling footage that appears to show Rodriguez at rallies and inside the Capitol.
“Danny kept following me around. The whole day it was just him antagonizing me, [saying things] like, ‘How many Black dicks have you sucked?’” Mozejewski recalled of the incident at the August rally.
“I had never experienced anything like that before. It’s really hard to be in a wheelchair and not have control of where you’re going,” he added. “This dude took advantage of my situation and my disability ... There were many other people in the crowd he could have pulled backwards, and he chose me.”
After another Trump rally in December, Rodriguez was spotted in the background of a citizen journalist’s broadcast. Wearing a Trump flag as a cape and sporting the same glasses, MAGA hat and pins, he can be seen getting into a fistfight with another man and tackling him to the ground.
These incidents of escalating violence might help explain how Rodriguez ended up in Washington on Jan. 6. John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, said it’s essential to understand the paths that led people to the Capitol if we hope to recognize future radicalization before it results in violence.
“As we’re coming to terms with what happened, we need to keep understanding the human stories that connect to these events. We have to understand the people and we have to understand their motivations,” Scott-Railton said. “We have to understand the source of this ideological poison, because it’s touched every family in America in some way. The people who went to the Capitol were just sort of the most extreme versions of that.”
Rodriguez’s seeming obsession with Trump is matched only by his intense hatred for the left. An abandoned Twitter account — which has the username “DJ Rodriguez” and the handle “DanielR,” followed by Rodriguez’s birthdate — displays a stream of content lionizing Trump, promoting far-right conspiracy theories and disparaging antifa. “Almost time for lefitst reeducation camp,” the user bio reads. Rodriguez’s public Facebook account is also littered with MAGA content and even some QAnon references. “We all know torchering [sic] children exists,” he wrote in 2017. “Let’s see how much Facebook cares about #pizzagate and censoring it.”
It’s essential, Scott-Railton said, that people who went to the Capitol “feel the hot breath of possible scrutiny” to prevent them from doing it again.
“A lot of the people who participated in that are people with jobs and things, you might say, to lose, right?” he said. “Well, they should feel like if they participate in something like this again, that they will have something to lose, and they may very well lose it.”
Rodriguez’s current location and employment status are unclear. But over the weekend, when his phone appeared to accidentally dial one of the HuffPost reporters who’d previously reached out for comment, there could be heard a brief discussion with a woman in Spanish and the sound of a child’s voice. Soon, in the background, a 1996 song by the Europop group No Mercy played over speakers.
“Where do you go?” the singer asked. “I want to know!”
This article has been updated.