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December 8, 2021 35 mins

You can’t solve a mass crime without a mass investigation, but the wheels of justice turn slowly. Robert Evans meets the citizen sleuths taking the investigation into their own hands. From their bedrooms and home offices across the world, ordinary people are shining a light on the events of January 6th.

Show Credits:

The Assault on America is presented by Robert Evans.

The producer is Robbie MacInnes. 

Sound design and original music by Nicholas Alexander.

Extra production by Caroline Thornham, Hywel Sedgewick and Avani Yadav.

Fact checking by Andrew Schwartz, Dania Suleman, Cheyenne Hohman, Sonia Avaki, and Theresa Campagna.

The executive producers are Max O’Brien and Sophie Lichterman.

The Assault on America is produced by Cool Zone Media, iHeartRadio, and Novel.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
Before we get into it, be advised that this series
contains bad language and references to violence. It's around three
pm on January six. The steps to the Capitol are

a seething mass of people. With every surge of the crowd,
they pushed closer to the doors. At the center of
a knot of bearded men, alone DC Metropolitan Police helmet surfaces.
It's officer Michael Finno. I just remember getting violently assaulted
from every direction, two hundred fifty maybe three hundred feet

away from where the other officers were at. I knew
I was up ship creep without tattling. Usual ELI officer
Phenone works in plain clothes, but today he left his
desk and put on riot gear for the first time

in his life, self deploying to assist his fellow officers
against the mob. Sam had asked why we ran to
help when we didn't have to. I did that because
I simply could not ignore what was happening. I could
not ignore the calls. Did numerous calls coming from the

Capital Complex for help. Officer Phenone joined the police line,
but was soon dragged away deep into the crowd. The
audio you're hearing was reported on Officer Phenone's body camp

from that day. We see him completely surrounded by these people.
Phone's helmet dips then resurfaces. He looks like he's fighting
for air. He was being hit with flagpoles. He was

being eat with everything, and he can't really fall because
there's so many people around him, but he's slowly going backwards.
I was risked of being stripped of and killed with
my own firearm. God, as I heard chance of kill
him with his own gun. I could still hear those

words in my head today. Another split second and Phenone
is pulled under. He disappears beneath the mass of bodies.
I'm sure I was screaming, but I don't think I
could even hear my own voice. When another police officer

finds Venone minutes later, he's limp, his breathing is shallow.
They m on here. The voice you're hearing is Officer
Phenone's partner, Jimmy Albright, who kneels over the unconscious body
of his friend and colleague. Officer Phenone can't remember the

faces of the people who beat him with their fists, planks,
and flagpoles. There were thousands of protesters there that day.
Hundreds of crimes committed. You might think finding justice would
be hopeless, and he leads lost in the chaos. But
miles away someone was watching. To watch it over a

period of hours and just see it escalate. I was shocked. Actually,
it's a couple of weeks later businessmen for Wist Rogers
is pouring over the footage from the Capitol steps. When
he hits the jackpot. There's something that I called the
holy Grail of video footage, which is basically four K

sixty frame per second video. A lot of people who
raided the capitol posted jubilant live streams on social media,
but someone brought a really good camera. There were the
stairs to the Capital, the mob, the struggling police, all

captured in crystalline HD. We then took this footage and
single framed it. Forest scrutinizes each frame of the video,

every a second, rozen in time. Just as Officer Phenone
is about to be swallowed by the crowd, Forest spots something.
We see a right hand going in between the shoulders
of two individuals. It happened so fast that it would

have been pretty much invisible to the naked eye. It
probably maybe five or six frames only let's wind that
back and look at those frames one by one. The
hand is right next to Officer Phenone. Officer Phone has

a lot of tattoos, and so you can see the
left side of the neck. You can see it's dark
because of his tattoo. The crowder surging frozen through each frame,
their faces etched with anger and expectant excitement. Officer Phenone
start to tip backwards. A hand reaches out, turns and

tazes Officer Phone on his left side of his neck,
and then the hand holds back and then the suspect disappears.
Phenone slumps back into the crowd. The electric shock has

given him a heart attack. We then single framed it
back again. Forest reverses the video, hunting for a clearer
view of the person with the taser. We've found photos
of this individual there. He is captured in profile a

few moments earlier, a goatee, glasses with thick black frames,
and a red maga hat decorated with pins. Then they
spot him in another video and another We found him
in other areas where he's also holding the taser in

his hand, or, as the journalists like to say, a
taser looking object. We originally called him hashtag taser prick
because we felt it was an appropriate name for him.
Forest shares a compilation of the footage online and more
sightings of hashtag taser prick fled in one video in particular,

helps crack taser pricks identity. He has a like a
wooden rod and he's beating the windows. He's breaking down
the windows. He's causing all this trouble, and he was
identified in that video. Someone said that is Danny Rodriguez.

Danny Rodriguez, a thirty eight year old Trump fanatic all
the way from California. Rodriguez was arrested on federal charges
on March one, nearly three months after he triggered Officer
Finone's heart attack. The video evidence identified by these amateur
salutes was cited in Rodriguez's indictment. Turns out the anonymity

of the crowd didn't last long for hashtag taser brick.
From Cool's own media, I Heart Radio and novel This
is the Assault on America Episode eight, the Digital Dragnet,

The Justice Department and the FBI have a team of
thousands working on the prosecutions. From January six, you might
expect Forest Rogers to be one of them. But Forest
isn't a special agent or even a cop. He's just
an ordinary guy with time on his hands and Twitter account.
In the aftermath of the attack on the Capitol, people
like him have played a crucial role in tracking down

the key suspects. I've said before that this was one
of the most well documented crimes in history. Thousands upon
thousands of camera phones were filming. Not to mention news
channels have ever seen anything like this. Streamers and left

wing activists who had infiltrated the Maga mob. You'd think
the volume of evidence would make it easier for the authorities,
but it's also kind of like having tens of thousands
of witnesses all shouting their testimony act you at once.

It's hard to make sense of the noise. That's where
people like Forest come in. We've spent a lot of
this series talking about the darker parts of the online world,
the fever swamps of disinformation and manufactured outrage, but it's

not all darkness. In this final episode, we're going to
find out how the attack on the Capitol was the
catalyst for an online community of citizens sluts from their
bedrooms and home offices across the United States and the world.
They've shown a light onto the events of January six

to understand how these amateur investigators became so important. I
want to kick off with Forest. Forest has gone back
and forth between the United States and Germany during his
career working in economic development. No, I wasn't the corporate
spive of my friends all think I was. He's basically
a businessman. He held companies, broker deals about which factories

get the where. But on January six, Forest isn't thinking
about wheeling and dealing. He's compulsively scrolling on Twitter. It
was like watching a car crash and slow motion, and
Twitter became the hub for gathering all of this information.
Forest begins deem ng back and forth with some of
the most vocal people in the information gathering effort, and

before long they joined forces. We started a Twitter account
called it deep State Dogs because all of these people
who were storming the Capitol tend to think the deep
state is involved in everything. And dogs because we all
like dogs, the Scooby Doos of online activism. You could
say we started out with three people, then he went
to five, and then he went to seven, and now

we're at about a dozen we are like a family.
In this case, it's not just the villains who hide
their identities. Forest is the spokesperson of Deep State Dogs.
The other members are all anonymous. In the online investigation world,
people stay anonymous for a number of reasons. When you
spend your free time exposing insurrectionists, you can piss off

some pretty dangerous people. The Deep State Dogs take anonymity
so seriously that they don't even know each other's names.
You imagine what this person looks like. You think maybe
that person is a female, and so now you have
a vision of this person sitting at their kitchen table
or in their corporate office. You have to have a vision, otherwise,

if it were just total anonymity, it would be difficult
to sustain. In the week that follows the riot, Forest
spends more and more time hunting for images of possible suspects.
By mid January, he's glued to his laptop for ten
plus hours a day trawling through footage of the riot,
hunting for clues that can identify any of the participants.

Chewing over leads with the other Deep State Dogs, but
it's tough going. Then around January, he notices a hashtag
doing the rounds on Twitter. B horn Lady a new target.
The deep state dogs are on the scent. There were
all these people who were trying to find this one

individual who was wearing a pink beanie. These searchs for
a woman in a pink hat wanted in connection with
the U. S Capital riots. The FBI still trying to
confirm her identity. Pink Hat Lady a k a. Bullhorn
Lady is a middle aged white woman with curly brown hair.
In footage from January six, her face is partly hidden

by a pair of white linen sunglasses, and she's carrying
a bullhorn, hence the hashtag. She wouldn't look out of
place among the moms at a local school football game
if it weren't for the fact that she's running amuck
in the heart of a mob. Bullhorn Lady first appears
and crowds outside the Capital. She's shouting and taking photos.

She and the other protesters forced their way up the
Capitol steps. She looks on as a police officer is
dragged past her. At one point, she grabs hold of
a huge battering ram and repeatedly smashes it against one

of the Capitol windows. What really gets Twitter riled up.
Is that throughout at all she shouts encouragement through the
bullhorn instructions. Even she was telling them, you need to
go through this door, you need to take a ride,

you need to break through that glass forest. Rodgers is
determined to track her down. This is one of the leaders.
This is a person who is I'm the are with
all of this information who has a plan to the
Deep State dogs. Bullhorn Lady looks a lot like a ringleader,

but between the sunglasses and the beanie, it's impossible to
get a good look at her face. As well as
curly brown hair, she has slightly asymmetrical nostrils, but the
detail isn't enough to find a match on its own,
so the dogs start to forensically dissect the rest of
the outfit. We started saying, Okay, these are the boots

she's wearing, this is the brand of flunglasses she's wearing.
In one video, Bullhorn Lady pulls out her phone and
takes a panoramic picture, and as she does so, her
phone case is clearly visible. It wasn't a standard black
case or red case. It was a very unique case
at an interesting floral design on it. A Kate spade,

Hollyhock floral iPhone eleven case. To be precise, it doesn't
take Forest long to find the match online. Forest in
the Deep State dogs watch Trump rallies. Next year will
be the greater economic year, Mega protests, more years, militia

meet ups, a large before black any event where a
budding capital insurgeon might rear their head. Then a crowd
of patriots surrounded him, and we found some footage at Gettysburg.
Ju was Homeland Security there and there was police there.

Supposedly Antifa was going to go there and rip down
Confederate statues or something, which gave everybody, of course the
chance to dress up in all their militia and go
there and protect the monuments. Tearing down a monuments really
need to stop. And so that's why I drove out here.
They're halfway through a YouTube video of interviews with people
defending the monuments. Is a woman wearing a black shirt

and a camouflage bag. She has curly brown hair. We
even find out her name and where she might live. Right, So, Rachel,
why don't you tell me how far did you come?
Four hours? Oh my god, Mercer County. One of my
team members saw the video and immediately send it out
and says, we found her. We have found Bullhorn Lady

Mercer County. There's the same curly brown hair, the same
asymmetrical nose, even the same earrings as Bullhorn Lady. But
Forrest wants to be completely certain. We don't want to
Dock's an innocent person before we submit it to the FBI.
We have to connect her to the capitol event. The

Deep State Dogs trawl the Facebook profiles of every Rachel
and Mercer County. One jumps out right away, Rachel Powell,
and there was an image of her, and believe it
or not, she was holding a bullhorn. Rachel Powell just
loves a bullhorn. Guys, we had a name. Now the
dogs have a name. All they need is a smoking gun.

And in the Gettysburg footage, Forest finds one. We see
her in the background and she reaches into her back pocket,
pulls out her iPhone to take a picture and it
is the same iPhone and the same iPhone case. Boom, gotcha.

The Deep State Dogs tip off the FBI. On the
twenty six of January, the dogs advised the other Twitter
sleuths to call off their hunt for Bullhorn lady. On
February four, Rachel Powell is taken into police custody indicted
on federal charges. This particular who done it is solved.
Deep State dogs move on to other suspects with other

excellent hashtags hashtag scallops, hashtag maser in black, and my
personal favorite hashtag Mr Extra creepy. But Forest is left
with questions, what flipped this person? What was in them?
What type of trauma did someone like this have to
have in their life? Or what type of entitlement does

this person think they have? This is her indictment, eight counts.
It's serious business. We're looking at twenty years to lose
everything for that, for the big lawe. What triggered it?
What triggered Rachel Powell's evolution into mob cheerleader. That's a
question I'm interested in too. I've watched the footage, I've

seen her in action, But who is Rachel Powell really?
And what drove her across state lines with a bullhorn
and a battering ram. On January six, she calls me
one day and she says, hey, do you have any
logs in your forest? So she came over with a

chainsaw and she cut up trees and we drilled holes
in all the logs and we plugged them with mushroom plugs.
That's Jennifer Horseman, a homeschool mom Western Pennsylvania, and so
that was a really fun thing that we did together,
is made ourselves a whole bunch of mushrooms. Her friend

with the chainsaw, that's Rachel Powell. They first met long
before Rachel was battering in the capital windows embarking orders
at fellow insurrectionists. We met probably ten years ago when
Rachel was doing a co op for vegetables and fruit
and organic produce, and she would go and pick up

the produce and pack it into boxes for everybody, and
that was kind of how she made a little bit
of money and got some food for her family and
supplied the local moms with good organic food for their families.
Jennifer and Rachel are closed, so obviously she's not an
impartial witness here, but the picture she paints is pretty

different from the militant ringleader Forest Rogers and the dogs
thought they were chasing down. Rachel is a mother of eight,
and according to Jennifer, she's community minded. I guess from
the standpoint of most quote normal people I guess you
would say we're kind of hippies. Yes, they were butchering chickens.

Today they both rear their own animals from meat sharp knife,
it's the best thing to do, and then put their
throat and it leads out to the bucket. It's not
unusual to see all kinds of rare chickens and other
fowl running around their yards. This past summer, we pulled
our resources together and um butchered all of our own

chickens together, and we did over five chickens this summer.
And then afterwards we sat around and did some canning
and you know, canned some of the meat and prepared
it to eat. It was several days worth of work
all day. There was a lot of work, but a
lot of fun, right and in all those hours of

chicken canning and log drilling. Politics was never at the
top of conversation. She wasn't ever into politics. It wasn't
her thing. If she was into politics, it was mostly
you know, making sure that it was someone that was
going to protect the earth. I was never into politics either,
So we just never discussed politics. Before all of this

stuff started happening with the pandemic and all that stuff.
The pandemic came up a lot when I was talking
to people for this series. It's turned life upside down
for everyone to a greater or lesser extent. For Forrest
Rogers and the other citizens sluths, lockdowns and working from
home meant they had time on their hands to put
towards information gathering. But for Rachel Powell, the lockdown pushed

her in the opposite direction. She is a single mom
of eight kids, you know. So if you can imagine
being a single mom of eight kids trying to feed
your kids, and then you take a pandemic which wasn't
affecting our area very much, you know, we don't see

the effects that maybe a big city would see. And
so um, she had her livelihood taken away, and so
she couldn't make a living to do what she needed
to deal for her kids, you know. And I think
that it was the injustice of all of that. I mean,

we live in the middle of the country. There's no
COVID flying amongst the forest. It's not fair to say
that Mercer County hasn't been affected by COVID. According to
the New York Times Statistics, the rate of COVID nineteen
cases per hundred thousand people in the county has been
pretty much in line with the Pennsylvania average over the
pandemic as a whole. As of auguste, the COVID death

rate in Mercer County to date is higher than both
the state and the national average. But at the same time,
the fact that the pandemic was a turning point for
Rachel is still important. The re search is only just
emerging on how COVID nineteen has affected radicalization across the
United States, but we know that people are more vulnerable
to disinformation in times of crisis. Of course, plenty of

folks had a rough time in without taking a battering
ram to the capital. But it seems that Rachel fell
victim to a mix of right wing conspiracy theories being
shared in places like Facebook and right wing thought leaders
like Alex Jones and the Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani. This
all hit her at a time when she was vulnerable.
This combination of factors brought Rachel Powell from being a

nature loving she's seller from rural Pennsylvania to being a
capital insurgent in the space of a year. She's really
just a normal mom. I mean, she sells. She's at
a farmer's market. That's literally what she did for a living.
She's just very free spirited, and my personal opinion as

that it is so far beyond what she should be facing.
People who rape and murder people get less time in
jail than what she's facing. I mean, forty seven years,
that's a long time. That's a lifetime. You heard that right.
If convicted, Rachel Powell is currently looking at a maximum

sentence of forty seven years. It's hardly surprising that Rachel's
friend thinks she's been screwed over. Obviously, if people attempt
to carry out a fascist coup and get slapped on
the wrist, they'll keep right on trying until they succeed.
But that doesn't make the reality of her case any
less grim. Her youngest daughter is only five years old.

It's a bleak reminder of just how much people were
convinced to gamble on stopping the steel. I asked Jennifer
whether people in her hometown still believe the election was stolen.
Within my circle and my friends, yes, definitely. Um So,
as far as I see in my view, I see

most way people that do feel that way, that it
might not have been a fair election, or that there
might have been some not so honest things going on there.
With her battering ram and her bullhorn, Rachel took her
belief in the big lie to an extreme. But for
every person who turned up at the Capitol on January six,

there are a lot more people like Jennifer who share
many of the same beliefs that moved their friends or
family to violence. And that's actually what makes Rachel's story
so important. There were a lot of people at the
Capitol like her, pretty normal Americans who had only been
occasionally political before COVID and had been radicalized largely on
Facebook through things like groups and viral memes spread by

friends and communities. Darryl Johnson is a former lead domestic
terrorism analyst at the Department of Homeland Security. We heard
from him last episode, and what shocked him most about
the Capital riot was how many previously a political people

like Rachel Powell, we're willing to throw their lot in
with the armed militias and other fringe and far right groups.
It just wasn't extremists. There were other people there who
typically they don't belong to these groups. They're just you know,
ordinary Americans. Influenced by conspiracy theories as well as disinformation

and these false allegations by the President himself of a
regular election. Last episode, we looked at how a backlash
from the conservative media turned right wing extremism into a
political hot potato and led to Homeland Securities Domestic Terrorism
Department getting gutted for Darryl The Rachel Powells of January
six are a direct consequence of that failure to tackle

the problem head on. Far right extremism, for the most part,
is something that happens on a regular basis. A lot
of times it's dismissed in the media or you know,
even by government officials as other types of crime rather
than terrorist attacks. If you don't crack down on far
right extremism and call it out for what it is,

then it starts to bleed into the mainstream. When we
have violence that's ideologically motivated and it's meant to instill
fear in a certain population or want to change government policy,
it meets the definition of terrorism and we need to
label it such. The thousands of ordinary citizens swept up

in the insurrection are a symptom of what happens when
you don't the sheer scale of it then creates a
new challenge for all of us. In the past, you know,
they've had major investigations, but they haven't been focused on
this larger a range of suspects. Ryan Riley is a
reporter with Huffington's Post. It's fair to say he's seen

his share of Justice Department investigations. Essentially, I've been covering
the Justice Department for my entire career, but he's never
reported on an investigation quite like this. Even really big
investigations like the Oklahoma City bombings or nine eleven only
had a few perpetrators at the center of them. On
January six, there were thousands from all over the country.

Some of them were probably on FBI watch lists, but
a lot of them, like Rachel Powell, we're not anyone's radar.
The Justice Apartment is facing a really massive challenge right now.
There's so many suspects, there's so many cases. It's just
this huge logistical nightmare because you have all of these leads,
because you have all these tips, um and when we're
talking about literally hundreds of thousands of tips, you can't

solve a mass crime on this scale without a mass investigation.
That's where the citizens sleuths come in. Deep State Dogs
are one of the many groups tracking down capital suspects
online at Sedition Hunters, at Country Over Party, at Capital Hunters.
The list of Twitter accounts goes on. Forest Rogers remembers
Bullhorn Lady as the Deep State dogs first big win.

She was the first one, I think where everybody said wow, yes,
we we got one, and that kind of gave the
Twitter slew is momentum to keep looking and keep looking.
In many cases, the FBI have been several steps behind
the amateurs. Tips from citizen sleuths have gone weeks without

being investigated, and while the sleuthing groups were posting video
compilations of suspects almost immediately, the FBI was way behind.
Ryan Riley watched as they tried to keep up. It
was a month before the FBI really had the capability
of putting out more than one image of a person
on their website. Was almost two months before we saw

them put up any videos to try and speed up
police investigations. Ryan has been working with the online sleuths
to verify and publicize their findings. Remember Danny Rodriguez, the
guy who tasered d c Met police Officer Phenone. At
the start of this episode, Ryan helped Forest Rodgers in
the Deep State Dogs spread the word about Rodriguez's identity.

The FBI actually only stepped in after Ryan and his
colleague Jesselyn Cook published an article on Rodriguez. As much
as we have this image of the FBI as this
sort of crime fighting state of the art institution that
we see portrayed in Hollywood, it is still a massive
federal bureaucracy. They're just clearly overwhelmed. It's just not something

that they're equipped to keep up with. It's inspiring to
see ordinary people like the citizens sleuths take personal responsibility
for protecting their democracy. But the fact that these amateur
investigators have proven so vital also shows the extent of
the problem. We're facing, a problem that will only intensify

if the political tensions across the country continue to worsen.
Darryl Johnson, the security analyst, believes something dangerous could be brewing.
What keeps me up at night is the Capital Insurrection happened,
and we had these different groups come together. Now some
of them are disbanding and reforming under other names, and

so we're entering this period of time where it's going
to be much more difficult to detect the next terrorist
attack from the far right. So I'm afraid there's another
Timothy McVeigh lurking out there that's going to be undetected
and carry out a mass, casually producing attack. It's a
chilling thought. In fact, I've come to believe that another

attempt like the Capital insurrection is almost inevitable. In the
months since January six we've seen what was initially a
widely condemned active anti democratic violence turned into a cause
celeb for the American right wing. Back in late July,

Republican Congress people Gate, Screen and Gomert attempted to visit
separate of the January sixth defendants in jail. Former President
Trump repeatedly called upon the government to reveal the name
of the Capitol Police officer who shot Ashley Babbitt, and
other prominent right wingers have pushed for the man to
face charges. At this point, I'd be shocked if Republican

presidential candidates in aren't at the very least falling over
themselves to see who can promise to pardon the January
sixth defendant's first right wing violence. With the express aim
of punishing their political opponents has grown only more normal
ever since. This will not go away on its own,

but there is some good news because the grassroots networks
of volunteer sluits and researchers who came together to catch
these people aren't going away either. Neither are the anti
fascist activists who have spent the last five years confronting
groups like the Prowdboys and the oath Keepers in the Street. However,
all that on its own is not enough. We won't

be through the woods and truly safe from a repeat
of January six until a majority of Americans are willing
to confront what happened at the Capitol head on. This
was an attempt to overthrow democracy and institute an authoritarian regime,
encouraged by some of the most powerful people in the
country and enabled by a social media ecosystem that functions

as a disinformation fire hose. We have to admit where
we're standing if we're going to move our culture in
a better direction. The Assault on America is presented by

me Robert Evans. The producer is Robbing Againness extra production
by Caroline Thornim Powell, Sedgwick and Avana Yadev. Sound design
and original music by Nicholas Alexander, fact checking by Andrew Schwartz,
Danya Suleiman, Cheyenne Hohman, Sonja Avaki, and Teresa Campania. The
executive producers are Max O'Brien and Sophie Lichterman. The Assault

on America is produced by Kool's own media, I Heart
Radio and novel Frank Thanky, Thank You Very Much, and Hello,
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