“I was hit from every direction. Then I was hit several times on the back of my neck,” Fanon later told CNN, adding that he had suffered a heart attack from the electrocution attack. “I just remember screaming that I had kids.”
“I couldn’t rest until he was arrested, especially after seeing his first interview with CNN,” said Rogers, a spokesperson for the Deep State Dogs. “You broke my heart.”
They compiled video evidence of suspect Taser that shows him – frame by frame – reaching out and briefly holding the bolt on Fanon’s neck. Then they tracked the man through the Jan. 6 crowd, revealing clear photos of the suspect’s face. Others shared on social media to help identify the man.
“You can see him reaching out—the suspect is extending his hand—and he puts the detonator on Officer Fanon’s neck, holding it for a very brief time,” Rogers said. “If that video hadn’t been framed in one, he probably would have seen it.”
They handed over their findings to the FBI, as well as to a Huffington Post reporter, who examined the identity of the alleged attacker: Daniel Rodriguez. Rodriguez now faces eight charges, including assaulting Fanon, and has pleaded not guilty.
The dogs of the deep state are just one group in the sprawling social media community dedicated to rooting out post-January 6 disobedience. Experts and community members describe them as diverse and pervasive, but united by a common goal: accountability. But their efforts are also a refutation of Republicans looking to whitewash the horrific events of that January day.
“Every time I hear MP try to downplay what happened, I think of the fear on their faces, and the pictures and footage we have of them fleeing what was happening. And I know they remember that too,” John said. Scott Railton, a senior researcher at The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, who also worked to help identify the insurrection.
“This was a shock to them, whatever they say now,” he added. “And so, it is especially painful to watch them try to rewrite history.”
A community of online detectives
More than 450 people have been arrested in connection with the January 6 events, and the FBI has released videos and photos, and is actively seeking public assistance in identifying gang members.
“As we’ve seen with dozens of cases so far, the advice is important,” FBI spokeswoman Samantha Shero said in a statement. “As evidenced by these arrests, the public has provided tremendous assistance to this investigation, and we request continued assistance in identifying other individuals for their role in the violence at the United States Capitol.”
Either way, Rodriguez’ arrest was a satisfying moment for the group.
“It was a very rewarding feeling to know that there is likely to be justice to be served to the person who attacked Officer Fanon,” Rogers said.
After the attack on the Capitol, the online community of riot hunters began searching for videos, photos, and social media footprints — crowdsourcing information in an effort to determine the identities of the troublemakers. Sometimes they tag alleged rebels to stay organized as new evidence and photos emerge.
Members said the community has evolved since its early days, when the enthusiasm of amateur investigators led to some mistakes.
“There was a tremendous amount of desire and enthusiasm on the part of people who had never done this kind of digging before to get involved and help,” Scott Railton said. “And this has resulted in some zealous people misidentifying them.”
Since then, a set of best practices have emerged. One of the guidelines – often repeated in tweet hunters – is not to name names on social media.
Efforts have also become more isolated, with certain groups dedicating their time to identifying department guards, while others attempt to track down the rioters who attacked the police. Some researchers have also moved their efforts to closed online groups. They often build their evidence quietly, with a small group of contributors, and then turn it over to law enforcement or journalists.
“This group of discord hunters are exceptionally focused, tenacious and talented,” Rogers said. “It’s impressive to see how organically it came together.”
Sedition hunters’ work appears in court
While it’s unclear the full extent to which their law enforcement efforts have helped, some of their handiwork is scattered across court documents.
One of the court’s requests noted that “some internet sites assigned this individual the hashtag #boyinthehood”.
“The second mentor was a member of the #SeditionHunters,” according to one of the files in another alleged rioters case.
Another case indicated that “unidentified Twitter users created the hashtag #Scallops to track photographs” of another alleged troublemaker.
Like many discord hunters, Marie prefers to remain anonymous. Some of these researchers worry that their safety may be threatened if their identities are revealed. Others said they were not looking for credit and preferred to focus on the troublemakers they helped identify.
Mary, who spends hours each week with her group creating profiles on Oath Keepers, said it’s a way for those horrified by the events of January 6 to contribute.
“If you can do anything about it, right?” She said. “You have to do it because you want to fight for justice, and you want to know the truth.”
Since the Capitol riots, the Department of Justice has said it has received more than 200,000 tips for digital media.
They are still seeking public assistance, particularly in identifying another 250 people who may have assaulted police or participated in other violent activities on the Capitol.
“This will continue,” Rogers said. “What we’ve seen now is, in my opinion, just a drop in the sea.”