“I was beaten from, like, every direction. And then I hit a few times on the back of my neck,” Fanone would later tell CNN, adding that he suffered a heart attack from the Taser attack. “I just remember yelling that I had kids.”
“I couldn’t rest until he was caught, especially after he saw his first interview with CNN,” said Rogers, a spokesman for Deep State Dogs. “It broke my heart.”
They compiled a video of the Taser suspect showing him – frame by frame – extending and briefly holding the Taser to Fanone’s neck. They then tracked the man through the January 6 crowd, revealing clear images of the suspect’s face. Others have appeared on social media to help determine the man’s identity.
“You can see him holding out his hand – the suspect holding out his hand – putting the Taser on Officer Fanone’s neck, holding it very short,” Rogers said. “If this video wasn’t framed, it would be – no one could have seen this, probably.”
They delivered their findings to the FBI, as did a Huffington Post reporter who further verified the identity of the alleged attacker: Daniel Rodriguez. Rodriguez now faces eight charges, including assaulting Fanone, and has pleaded not guilty.
The Deep State Dogs is just one group in a vast social media community dedicated to uprooting rebels after January 6. Experts and community members describe it as diverse and widespread but united by a common goal: Accountability. But their efforts are also a rejection of Republicans seeking to whitewash the horrific events of that January day.
“Every time I hear a legislator try to downplay what happened, I think about the fear on their faces, and the images and images we have of them running away from what happened. And I know that they remember that too, “said John. Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, who also worked to help identify rebels.
“This has been a trauma for them, whatever they say now,” he added. “And so, it’s especially annoying to watch them try to rewrite history.”
A community of internet detectives
More than 450 people were arrested in connection with the events of January 6 and the FBI released videos and pictures, actively seeking the public’s help in identifying members of the mob.
“As we’ve seen with dozens of cases so far, the advice is important,” said Samantha Shero, an FBI spokeswoman. “As evidenced by these arrests, the public has provided tremendous assistance to this investigation, and we are seeking continued assistance in identifying other individuals for their role in the violence at the U.S. Capitol.”
However, Rodriguez’s arrest was a joyous moment for the group.
“It was a very rewarding feeling to know that there might be justice served for the person who attacked Officer Fanone,” Rogers said.
After the attack on the Capitol, the community of online insurgent hunters began tackling video, images and social media footprints – media to try to determine the identities of the rioters. Sometimes they assigned alleged rebels hashtags to stay organized when new clues and pictures appeared.
The community has been evolving since its early days, members said, when the zeal of amateur detectives caused a number of missteps.
“There was an enormous amount of desire and enthusiasm on the part of people who had never done such digging before to get involved and help,” Scott-Railton said. “And that resulted in some over-enthusiastic people making some misidentifications.”
Since then, a set of best practices has emerged. Among the guiding principles – which are often repeated in the tweets of rebel hunters – don’t go naming names on social media.
Efforts have also grown quieter, with some groups devoting their time to identifying Oath Keepers, while others are trying to track down rioters who attacked police. Some researchers have also moved their efforts into closed groups online. They often build their proof quietly, with a small group of contributors, and then hand it over to police or journalists.
“This group of rebel hunters, they are exceptionally focused, tenacious and talented,” Rogers said. “It’s so impressive to see how it came together organically.”
The manual labor of rebel hunters appears in court
Although it is unclear to what extent their efforts have helped the police, some of their manual labor has been leaked through court documents.
“Certain internet sites have assigned this individual the hashtag ‘#boyinthehood,'” one court case noted.
“The second informant was a member of #SeditionHunters,” according to an archive in the case of another alleged rioter.
Another case noted “unknown Twitter users created the hashtag, #Scallops, to track photos” of another alleged rioter.
Like many of the rebel hunters, Maria prefers to remain anonymous. Some of these researchers are concerned that their security could be threatened if their identities are revealed. Others said they were not looking for credit and would rather keep the focus on the rioters they helped identify.
Mary, who spends hours each week with her group building files on Oath Keepers, said it’s a way for those who were horrified by the January 6 events to contribute.
“If you can do anything about it, can’t you?” she said. “You have to do it because you want to fight for justice, you want to know the truth.”
Since the Capitol riot, the Justice Department has said it has received more than 200,000 digital media tips.
They are still asking for the help of the public, especially in identifying another 250 people who may have been attacked by police or engaged in other violent activity at the Capitol.
“This will continue,” Rogers said. “What we’ve seen now is, in my opinion, just a drop in the bucket.”