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BEHAVIORAL THREAT ASSESSMENT: Daniel Joseph Rodriguez

Person of Interest (POI): Daniel Joseph Rodriguez

Beatriz Adell Quesada, Diana Smith, Angeliki Siafaka, Behavior/Leadership (B/L) Team


Daniel Joseph Rodriguez[1]


Summary

Daniel Joseph Rodriguez electroshocked DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone amid the attack at the US Capitol Building on Wednesday, January 6, 2021.[2] After conducting an analysis on Rodriguez, the following assessments have been reached. Based on the information publicly available at the time of this report, it is appropriate to classify Daniel Rodriguez as a domestic terrorist and his attack as an act of domestic terrorism. The target of Rodriguez’s attack was the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, and his goal was very likely to prevent the inauguration of then President-Elect Joe Biden by disrupting Congress’ certification of the electoral vote. Rodriguez was very likely motivated by a desire to be perceived as a hero after saving the country and protecting the Constitution from the people he believed had stolen the elections. Rodriguez’s identification with “Three Percenter” theories likely reinforced his motivation by making him believe that he could be part of that “three percent” that would be glorified for defending the US. It is unlikely that Rodriguez’s attack will inspire copycats, mainly due to the large number of arrests that have resulted from the attack and the subsequent lack of media coverage of Rodriguez’s individual case. Law enforcement will likely increase its monitoring of individuals advocating violence on social media, particularly those inspired by prominent conspiracy theories such as the “three percenter” theory or the stolen election theory. US security and law enforcement agencies will likely ensure high responsiveness to any identified threats, particularly on the eve of US presidential elections and on anniversaries of the 2021 US Capitol attack.


Event Overview

On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, a group of former US President Donald Trump supporters entered the US Capitol building in Washington, DC. The rioters likely aimed to disrupt the joint session of Congress that was assembled to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election, likely motivated by former US President Donald Trump’s false claims that he had won the elections. DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, who self-deployed to assist the Capitol Police, was attacked by the rioters and electroshocked with a taser.[3] He subsequently suffered a heart attack and was diagnosed with a concussion, a traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder.[4] Daniel Joseph Rodriguez was identified as the person who electroshocked Officer Michael Fanone through videos taken during the attack.[5]


Between January 3 and January 5, 2021, Daniel Rodriguez traveled to Washington, DC to attend the Stop the Steal rally. Phone records show that around 1011 local time on January 6, 2021 he arrived at the Ellipse, and by 1350 local time, he was at the Capitol Building steps.[6] He wore a hat that read “Make America Great Again” and was armed with tactical gear. At around 1440 local time, he joined the rioters attempting to enter the Capitol Building and attacking the Capitol police. According to footage, the rioters attacked Officer Fanone, saying they should kill him with his gun, and pushed him down the stairs before Rodriguez used a taser on Fanone’s neck multiple times.[7] He also attacked other officers with a flagpole. At around 1545 local time, Rodriguez entered the Capitol Building and used a pole to smash windows so that more people could gain access. He is seen in videos organizing and encouraging the other rioters. He helped rioters gain access to offices inside the Capitol Building and urged them to look for “intel.” He picked up furniture and gave them to other rioters to use as battering tools. He destroyed property inside the Capitol Building and stole emergency escape hoods. Between January 7 and January 10, 2021, Rodriguez drove back to his residence in California, and deleted photographs and videos in an attempt to destroy evidence of his participation in the Capitol attack.[8]


On March 24, 2021, Rodriguez was indicted on eight federal criminal counts, including assaulting an officer, obstruction of an official proceeding, destruction of government property, and entering a restricted building.[9] On March 31, 2021 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested Rodriguez in Fontana, California.[10] During his interview with FBI agents, he confessed to assaulting Officer Fanone with a taser and said he knew what he was doing when he entered the Capitol Building.[11] In another indictment unsealed on November 29, 2021, Rodriguez was also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the US.[12] The indictment alleges that Rodriguez conspired with his friend Edward Badalian and another individual whose name has been redacted to organize the obstruction of the Congress’ certification of the electoral vote on January 6, 2021. Rodriguez has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and it appears that his defense plans to argue that he acted under public authority following the directions of former US President Donald Trump.[13]


POI Overview - Items of Interest

On February 26, 2021, a HuffPost[14] investigation identified Daniel Joseph Rodriguez as the person who allegedly electroshocked Officer Michael Fanone, using footage from the attack.[15] Daniel Rodriguez lives in Fontana, California. Below are some items of interest that will identify observable indicators and characteristics to determine if there was a chance to prevent this attack.

  1. According to the indictment, Rodriguez regularly attended pro-Trump rallies in Southern California in 2020.[16]

  2. According to prosecutors, Rodriguez used the Telegram group “Patriots 45 MAGA Gang” to advocate violence against people who supported the 2020 presidential election results.[17]

  3. In an interview with the FBI, Rodriguez alleged that he had become radicalized through watching videos on InfoWars.[18] Online right-wing pundits such as Steven Crowder, Mark Dice, and the Hodgetwins also lead him to believe in conspiracy theories that portrayed the 2020 presidential election as being stolen.[19]

  4. During the FBI interview, Rodriguez called himself “an asshole,” and “a fucking piece of shit,” and expressed concern that his “mom’s gonna find out” what he did.[20]

  5. During the interview, Rodriguez also described himself as a “Three Percenter” who believed the US was about to go into a civil war. He attended pro-Trump rallies to “talk to people and try to bring them -- like, educate them” to the pro-Trump cause.[21]

  6. Rodriguez reportedly messaged an unidentified person between December 31, 2020, and January 4, 2021 to say that he would “assassinate Joe Biden” if he had the opportunity and “would rather die than live under a Biden administration.”[22]

  7. Rodriguez confessed that he had “always wanted a gun,” and had tried to buy one twice.[23]

  8. He had gone paintballing several times with Edward Badalian and others who also participated in the attack. According to Rodriguez, the aim was “to try and get people to work together and follow directions,” and ultimately to build a team.[24]

  9. Rodriguez tried to join the US Army after Donald Trump became President, at the age of 35, but was turned away, allegedly due to his “bad” arrest record.[25]

  10. On the day of the Capitol Building attack, Rodriguez took a knife and pepper spray with him.[26]

Observable Indicators and Characteristics

To indicate whether this event was a lone-actor terrorist attack, the Counterterrorism Group (CTG) has assessed Daniel Rodriguez using the Terrorist Radicalization Assessment Protocol (TRAP-18), a structured professional judgment instrument for those engaged in risk assessment of persons of concern for acts of terrorist violence. The TRAP-18 consists of 8 proximal warning behaviors and 10 distal characteristics displayed throughout past terrorist attacks (for more information about the scientific method, validity, current usage of the TRAP-18, and definitions of the behaviors and characteristics, see the provided source).[27]


Only the evidence which has been proven and confirmed are checked on this list. Unchecked boxes may or may not have been exhibited by the POI but are, for now, unknown.





Classification as Terrorist

According to the creators of the TRAP-18, the majority of lone actors are positive on 13 of 18 TRAP-18 variables (72%). Lone actors show a frequency of >70% on the distal factors of personal grievance/moral outrage, framed by an ideology, thwarting of occupational goals, and changes in thinking and emotion, and 77% or more on the four proximal warning behaviors, namely pathway, fixation, identification, and leakage. Lone-actor terrorists tend to display a pattern of common pre-attack behaviors that distinguish them from other criminals.[35] Using the TRAP-18 is not foolproof, but CTG can compare Daniel Rodriguez's traits to those of known lone-actor terrorists to help determine whether this attack was a terrorist act or motivated by a personal grievance.


Based on the information available at the time of this report, Rodriguez displayed eight total indicators associated with lone-actor terrorists. Before the incident, he expressed leakage and pathway behavior, moral outrage, and a significant attachment to ideology. Based on the admitted far-right motives, Rodriguez committed an act of terrorism. Rodriguez had a strong attachment to the far-right and “three percent” ideology. While he appears to regret his attack in his statements, he was ideologically driven to enact political change. If more information regarding his beliefs and motivations behind the attack becomes available, CTG will reassess its classification.


Target and Goal

The target of Rodriguez’s attack was the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, with the likely goal of helping former President Donald Trump through obstructing the certification of the 2020 presidential elections’ results. In their Telegram group chat, the “PATRIOTS 45 MAGA Gang,” Rodriguez and his co-conspirators discussed their intention to violently remove politicians they believed to be traitors because they supported the election results.[36] According to the indictment, Rodriguez planned his trip to Washington DC while collecting weapons and tactical gear, including a taser, gas masks, a baseball bat, pepper spray, and walkie-talkies.[37] The explicitly stated threat of violence and the preparations leading up to the events of January 6, 2021 suggest that Rodriguez had planned to attack the Capitol Police, likely anticipating that they would try to prevent him and the other rioters from entering the Capitol Building. Rodriguez said that he believed that former US President Donald Trump called his supporters to Washington, DC on January 6, 2021 to assist him.[38] His attack very likely aimed to support former President Donald Trump, a leader he appeared to idolize, by responding to his perceived call to action. Rodriguez very likely believed that the Capitol attack would overturn the results of the 2020 election by disrupting Congress’ certification of the electoral vote. By attacking people that supported what he asserted was a fraudulent electoral process through safeguarding the transition of power, Rodriguez likely aimed to protect his country and the Constitution.


Motive

Daniel Rodriguez was very likely motivated by his desire to fight for his country and demonstrate his political agency, as well as his belief in conspiracy theories concerning the 2020 presidential elections. Rodriguez said that he had been following the far-right conspiracy theory and fake news website InfoWars since 2008 and believed that Alex Jones helped him discover the truth about the political situation in the US.[39] His consistent engagement with conspiracy theories very likely suggests a tendency towards conspiratorial thinking. Rodriguez described that he tried to join the US armed forces motivated by former US President Donald Trump’s election, but the Army turned him down.[40] He campaigned for former President Trump and started going to pro-Trump rallies because he felt compelled to argue with people who disapproved of former President Trump.[41] While Rodriguez admitted to following InfoWars for years, his failure to enlist in the Army and his seeming idolization of former President Trump is very likely connected to his increased polarization and focus on far-right propaganda and conspiracy theories.


Rodriguez appeared to be excited to participate in the civil war that he thought would break out on January 6, 2021, likely anticipating that it would be the most important day of his life.[42] Rodriguez’s preoccupation with campaigning for Donald Trump following his rejection from the US Army indicates that he was likely searching for a new mission and purpose in life. He very likely perceived the rallies, and later the Capitol attack, as his only opportunity to serve former President Trump and his country. He was very likely motivated by a desire to be perceived as a hero who would save the country by protecting the Constitution. The conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 presidential elections and the gathering of Donald Trump’s followers in the Capitol on January 6, 2021 likely provided Rodriguez with the opportunity to realize his goal to fight for his country and his leader, enabling him to justify political violence as patriotic duty.


Conspiracy Theories and Copycats

During his interview with the FBI, Daniel Rodriguez confirmed he believed in several conspiracy theories at the time of the attack, including the theory that three percent of the country needs to be prepared to overtake the government in response to tyranny, and the theory that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from the Republican Party.[43] He very likely identified as part of the “three percent” able to respond to the perceived infringements on the democratic process by participating in the Capitol attack. His decision to electroshock Police Officer Michael Fanone inside the Capitol Building was likely fueled by his belief that the election had been invalid.


The amount of media coverage on Rodriguez’s criminal proceedings will likely determine the possibility of a copycat attack. He is one of many arrested on charges stemming from the Capitol riot. Rodiguez's case will likely receive less media coverage if the arrests continue, reducing the likelihood that he will inspire copycat attacks. His interview transcripts suggest that he no longer believes in the conspiracies that pushed him to the Capitol attack.[44] If he publicly denounces his actions, it is unlikely that his attack will inspire copycat attacks, as future perpetrators will likely see his denunciation as a betrayal of his original beliefs of which perpetrators would likely associate with in the future. However, as the Capitol attack received significant press coverage and the legal repercussions to the attackers were minimal in the attack’s immediate aftermath, there is a roughly even chance of individuals seeking to reproduce the overarching attack to gain media attention. The media should broadcast the medium and long-term legal repercussions the Capitol rioters face in order to dissuade potential copycat attackers.


Future Implications

The case of Daniel Rodriguez demonstrates the potential of online misinformation to cause real-world violence. Rodriguez was radicalized into believing conspiracies of a stolen election via media channels like InfoWars, and he had advocated violence online against people who supported the 2020 presidential elections results in the online Telegram chat. There were significant online calls to action across the US to protest the results of the 2020 election at the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021. Recognition of these calls to action by law enforcement and a subsequent heightening of security protocols in the lead-up to January 6, 2021 would have likely decreased the rioters’ ability to perpetrate violence on the day of the attack. Going forward, it is very likely that law enforcement will be more responsive to individuals advocating violence on social media, particularly those inspired by beliefs in conspiracy theories. US security and law enforcement agencies will likely be very responsive to any identified threats, particularly on the eve of future US presidential elections and on anniversaries of the 2021 Capitol attack. It is also likely that media platforms will gradually develop tools to help online users recognize misinformation. Otherwise, perceptions that media platforms facilitate the spread of conspiracy theories and incite real-world violence would likely damage their reputation, likely resulting in a reduction of their overall user base but an increase in individuals who follow fringe ideologies. However, media platform efforts to help users recognize misinformation are unlikely to dissuade users from their specific beliefs, as individuals are “more likely to dismiss and resist a persuasive appeal if it targets an attitude toward which they are strongly committed.”[45] Counter-narratives are unlikely to defy overarching extremist beliefs aggressively. Instead, they are likely to aim for general media literacy campaigns that do not overtly target extremist belief campaigns or reach their intended audience.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) has become the global leader in proactively fighting terrorist organizations around the world. CTG specializes in intelligence collection, and analysis, as well as investigative work to counterterrorism. CTG resources are delivered to advise clients on a business resilience process using current threat intelligence data. We scan for threats across the following regions; Africa, Central Asia, Europe, North America, South America, and Asia-Pacific. Our organization assesses evolving threats through, Worldwide Analysis of Threats, Crime, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H.) services. Our W.A.T.C.H Officers and Digital Targeters monitor the threat posed by cyber threats, insider threats, fraud, espionage, hazards, reputational damages, violent crime, kidnappings, and bombing threats. To find out more about our products and W.A.T.C.H. services visit us at counterterrorismgroup.com.

[1] NEW: Meet Trump superfan Daniel “Danny” Rodriguez. He tasered @DCPoliceDept Officer Mike Fanone in the neck at the #Capitol, Twitter, February 26, 2021, https://twitter.com/jsrailton/status/1365416087916060672/photo/1

[2] Trump fan accused of tasing police officer at Capitol riot cries and calls himself ‘piece of s***’ in FBI interview, The Independent, October 2021, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/crime/maga-daniel-rodriguez-capitol-riot-b1939984.html

[3] Capitol Police officer Michael Fanone reacts to footage of rioters attacking him, ABC News, https://abcnews.go.com/US/video/capitol-police-officer-michael-fanone-reacts-footage-rioters-79092152

[4] DC officer beaten unconscious on Jan. 6 is back on the job, The Hill, September 2021, https://thehill.com/policy/defense/571600-dc-officer-beaten-unconscious-on-jan-6-is-back-on-the-job

[5] Trump fan accused of tasing police officer at Capitol riot cries and calls himself ‘piece of s***’ in FBI interview, The Independent, October 2021, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/crime/maga-daniel-rodriguez-capitol-riot-b1939984.html

[6] “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. DANIEL JOSEPH ‘DJ’ RODRIGUEZ, EDWARD BADALIAN,” U.S. Department of Justice, 2021, https://www.justice.gov/usao-dc/press-release/file/1451986/download

[7] Capitol Police officer Michael Fanone reacts to footage of rioters attacking him, ABC News, https://abcnews.go.com/US/video/capitol-police-officer-michael-fanone-reacts-footage-rioters-79092152

[8] “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. DANIEL JOSEPH ‘DJ’ RODRIGUEZ, EDWARD BADALIAN,” U.S. Department of Justice, 2021, https://www.justice.gov/usao-dc/press-release/file/1451986/download

[9] “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. DANIEL RODRIGUEZ,” U.S. Department of Justice, 2021, https://www.justice.gov/usao-dc/case-multi-defendant/file/1381991/download

[10] “United States v. SEALED, Arrest Warrant Returned Executed — Document #5,” CourtListener, 2021, https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/59780546/5/united-states-v-sealed/

[11] “United States v. SEALED, Exhibit A — Document #38, Attachment #1,” CourtListener, 2021, https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.dcd.229256/gov.uscourts.dcd.229256.38.1.pdf

[12] “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. DANIEL JOSEPH ‘DJ’ RODRIGUEZ, EDWARD BADALIAN,” U.S. Department of Justice, 2021, https://www.justice.gov/usao-dc/press-release/file/1451986/download

[13] Trump fan accused of tasing police officer at Capitol riot cries and calls himself ‘piece of s***’ in FBI interview, The Independent, October 2021, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/crime/maga-daniel-rodriguez-capitol-riot-b1939984.html

[14] While The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) understands the left leaning bias of this news agency, the information was subsequently verified by the FBI. In order to be precise in our reporting, we needed to give credit to the HuffPost.

[15] Trump fan accused of tasing police officer at Capitol riot cries and calls himself ‘piece of s***’ in FBI interview, The Independent, October 2021, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/crime/maga-daniel-rodriguez-capitol-riot-b1939984.html

[16] 26-year-old California man charged with taking part in Capitol riot, East Bay Times, November 2021, https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2021/11/29/north-hills-man-charged-with-taking-part-in-capitol-riot/

[17] ‘Patriots 45 MAGA Gang’ planned violence on January 6, prosecutors say, CNN, November 2021, https://edition.cnn.com/2021/11/29/politics/patriots-45-maga-gang-fanone-capitol-riot/index.html

[18] In interrogation video, tearful Jan. 6 defendant apologizes for assault on officer, The Washington Post, December 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/12/01/danny-rodriguez-taser-fanone/

[19] Trump fan accused of tasing police officer at Capitol riot cries and calls himself ‘piece of s***’ in FBI interview, The Independent, October 2021, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/crime/maga-daniel-rodriguez-capitol-riot-b1939984.html

[20] “United States v. SEALED, Exhibit A — Document #38, Attachment #1,” CourtListener, 2021, https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.dcd.229256/gov.uscourts.dcd.229256.38.1.pdf

[21] Ibid

[22] Edward Badalian, Daniel Rodriguez Charged With Conspiracy, Assault In Connection With Jan. 6 Capitol Breach, CBS Los Angeles, November 2021, https://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2021/11/30/edward-badalian-daniel-rodriguez-charged-conspiracy-assault-jan-6-capitol-breach/

[23] “United States v. SEALED, Exhibit A — Document #38, Attachment #1,” CourtListener, 2021, https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.dcd.229256/gov.uscourts.dcd.229256.38.1.pdf

[24] Ibid

[25] Ibid

[26] Ibid

[27] “Assessing the threat of lone-actor terrorism: the reliability and validity of the TRAP-18,” Forensische Psychiatrie, Psychologie, Kriminologie, 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7149273/

[28] “United States v. SEALED, Exhibit A — Document #38, Attachment #1,” CourtListener, 2021, https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.dcd.229256/gov.uscourts.dcd.229256.38.1.pdf

[29] Ibid

[30] Ibid

[31] Edward Badalian, Daniel Rodriguez Charged With Conspiracy, Assault In Connection With Jan. 6 Capitol Breach, CBS Local, November 2021, https://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2021/11/30/edward-badalian-daniel-rodriguez-charged-conspiracy-assault-jan-6-capitol-breach/

[32] “United States v. SEALED, Exhibit A — Document #38, Attachment #1,” CourtListener, 2021, https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.dcd.229256/gov.uscourts.dcd.229256.38.1.pdf

[33] Edward Badalian, Daniel Rodriguez Charged With Conspiracy, Assault In Connection With Jan. 6 Capitol Breach, CBS Local Los Angeles, November 2021, https://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2021/11/30/edward-badalian-daniel-rodriguez-charged-conspiracy-assault-jan-6-capitol-breach/

[34] “United States v. SEALED, Exhibit A — Document #38, Attachment #1,” CourtListener, 2021, https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.dcd.229256/gov.uscourts.dcd.229256.38.1.pdf

[35] “Assessing the threat of lone-actor terrorism: the reliability and validity of the TRAP-18,” Forensische Psychiatrie, Psychologie, Kriminologie, 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7149273/

[36] “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. DANIEL JOSEPH ‘DJ’ RODRIGUEZ, EDWARD BADALIAN,” U.S. Department of Justice, 2021, https://www.justice.gov/usao-dc/press-release/file/1451986/download

[37] Ibid

[38] “United States v. SEALED, Exhibit A — Document #38, Attachment #1,” CourtListener, 2021, https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.dcd.229256/gov.uscourts.dcd.229256.38.1.pdf

[39] Ibid

[40] Ibid

[41] Ibid

[42] Ibid

[43] Ibid

[44] Ibid

[45] “Do Counter-Narratives Reduce Support for ISIS? Yes, but Not for Their Target Audience,” Frontiers in Psychology, 2020, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01059/full#h7

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