In late June 2023, headlines appeared about a far-right activist named Taylor Taranto who had been arrested for apparently casing the neighborhood of former United States President Barack Obama after broadcasting a series of escalating threats:
Taylor Taranto’s June 29  arrest — after a foot pursuit near Rock Creek Parkway — capped a week-long period in which his erratic and menacing behavior escalated the urgency from law enforcement to find him. It was only after he entered Obama’s Secret Service-protected neighborhood that officials were able to track his movements closely. Taranto, speaking on a livestream, discussed finding an entrance to the Obamas’ home via the sewers.
In the days prior to his arrest, Taranto had broadcast threats to blow up the National Institute of Standards and Technology, warned Speaker Kevin McCarthy that he “can’t stop what’s coming,” and entered an elementary school near the Maryland home of Rep. Jamie Raskin while livestreaming apparent threats to the Democratic congressman.
Taranto had been living out of a van for two months before his arrest, traveling from his home state of Washington to the nation’s capital, prosecutors say, after reports that McCarthy had pledged to provide access to Jan. 6 security footage to those charged in the attack. Taranto called McCarthy’s office on June 27, according to the Justice Department in a 26-page filing seeking Taranto’s pretrial detention.
A few days later, a Reddit account said in a popular post to Reddit’s r/politics that disgraced former U.S. President Donald Trump had shared his presidential predecessor’s purported home address online before the incident:
The post was titled “Trump posted what he said was Obama’s address, prosecutors say. An armed man was soon arrested there,” and the most upvoted comment on the post read:
Stochastic terrorism is the technical term for this.
Why is he allowed to commit all the stochastic terrorism he wants?
Stochastic terrorism is a term for violence that can be predicted generally but not individually. The most widely agreed-upon definition comes from a book (The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism) written by researchers Max Hamm and Ramón Spaaij: “The use of mass media to provoke random acts of ideologically motivated violence that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.” In other words, while it is possible to predict that a percentage of the population might internalize weaponized rhetoric enough to act upon it on ideological lines, it is impossible to predict which individuals might be the ones to do so.
Another commenter responded with examples of other instances of stochastic terrorism associated with Trump:
It has to be easy [to argue or prove] at this point. January 6th  was a pretty good indicator that [Trump] could spur his followers to commit illegal acts and attack others. The guy who attacked the FBI following Trump’s outbursts at being raided was less than a year ago [as of July 5 2023]. [Dr. Anthony] Fauci had to have protection for himself and his family, Trump’s attacked the prosecutors who have been investigating him in New York and Georgia; Alvin Bragg has been sent white powder more than once and has gotten repeated death threats. [Georgia Secretary of State Brad] Raffensperger got death threats after the election in 2020 after Trump’s attacks on him. Election workers all over the country were threatened as a result of his words against them.
He can’t exactly feign ignorance at what would happen, he’s kept doing this with full knowledge of what might happen because it’s been a constant threat against anyone he targets for years now.
On July 6 2023, no fewer than four additional posts about the claim were shared to various political subreddits. Iterations appeared on r/conservativeterrorism, r/moderatepolitics, r/GunsAreCool, and r/BreakingPoints:
Two of the threads (and the r/politics post) linked to the same Associated Press (AP) article, published on July 5 2023 and describing Taranto’s motivation by weaponized disinformation campaigns:
Former President Donald Trump posted on his social media platform what he claimed was the home address of former President Barack Obama on the same day that a man with guns in his van was arrested near the property, federal prosecutors said [on July 5 2023, while] revealing new details about the case.
On the day of his June 29 arrest, prosecutors said, [Taylor Taranto] reposted a Truth Social post from Trump containing what Trump claimed was Obama’s home address. In a post on Telegram, Taranto wrote: “We got these losers surrounded! See you in hell, Podesta’s [sic] and Obama’s [sic].” That’s a reference to John Podesta, the former chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Democratic presidential campaign.
CNN covered the incident on July 6 2023, citing a “detention memo” and reporting:
On June 28 , according to prosecutors, Taranto made “ominous comments” on video referencing [House Speaker Kevin] McCarthy, saying: “Coming at you McCarthy. Can’t stop what’s coming. Nothing can stop what’s coming.”
After seeing those “threatening comments,” law enforcement tried to locate Taranto but weren’t successful, prosecutors said.
The following day, on June 29 , “former President Donald Trump posted what he claimed was the address of Former President Barack Obama on the social media platform Truth Social,” prosecutors wrote in their memo. “Taranto used his own Truth Social account to re-post the address. On Telegram, Taranto then stated, ‘We got these losers surrounded! See you in hell, Podesta’s and Obama’s.’”
“Shortly thereafter, Taranto again began live-streaming from his van on his YouTube channel. This time, Taranto was driving through the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington D.C.,” prosecutors said.
The government said in its filing that Taranto parked his van and began walking around the neighborhood and that because of the “restricted nature of the residential area where Taranto was walking, United States Secret Service uniformed officers began monitoring Taranto almost immediately as soon as he began walking around and filming.”
Prosecutors said that in Taranto’s recording, he repeatedly couched his actions as free speech “as if he believes that simply saying the words, ‘First Amendment,’ absolved him from any trespass.”
CNN linked to a June 30 2023 article on their website, “Judge orders man arrested with firearms in Obama’s DC neighborhood to remain in custody.” It reported that Taranto had been taken into custody and featured a photograph of him at the Capitol on January 6 2021.
The r/politics post appeared one day after a federal judge in Louisiana granted an injunction limiting the ability of law enforcement agencies to work with social media platforms to prevent real-world violence coordinated on those platforms.
A July 6 2023 CBS News item reiterated that law enforcement had sought Taranto before this incident:
A Jan. 6  defendant who was arrested near the home of former President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., with weapons and ammunition in his van had threatened to blow up the vehicle at a government facility the day before, federal prosecutors alleged in a new court filing.
Taylor Taranto, a 37-year-old from Washington state, was taken into custody in Obama’s Kalorama neighborhood on June 29  after Secret Service agents spotted him several blocks from the residence. He was wanted on an arrest warrant related to his alleged actions on Jan. 6  and faces four misdemeanor charges related to the riot. He has been kept behind bars since his arrest, and prosecutors have indicated they could bring additional charges.
In back-to-back hearings on [July 5 2023] and [July 6 2023], Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui grappled with the government’s request to keep Taranto detained until trial, saying case law prevented him from considering factors beyond whether he poses a flight risk when deciding whether to release him.
On [July 6 2023], Faruqui said he was delaying ruling on prosecutors’ request because pretrial officials in Washington state must get a plan in place for his pretrial release and custodianship if the judge rules to release him. Another hearing is set for next Wednesday, July 12 .
Taranto had also reportedly been “living in his van” for an extended period at the time of the incident, far from his home state of Washington. In a June 30 2023 report on Taranto’s arrest, CBS News described the location of the arrest as in Obama’s “neighborhood”:
Taranto’s van was parked close to where he was arrested. There were multiple weapons and the materials to make some kind of explosive device akin to a Molotov cocktail, but it had not been assembled, according law enforcement officials familiar with the details. He had said he had explosives, but first responders only found the materials to make them.
U.S. officials were concerned because Taranto had made threats during recent livestreams on social media against a public figure. He also had an open warrant on charges related to the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol. He wasn’t in Obama’s neighborhood by mistake, a U.S. official noted.
A July 5 2023 r/politics post claimed that Donald Trump posted what he said was Barack Obama’s address to TruthSocial in late June 2023, after which an “armed man” visited the location. Suspect Taylor Taranto was arrested in the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, DC on June 29 2023. At that time, law enforcement sought Taranto in relation to his purported activities at the U.S. Capitol building on January 6 2021 and more recent violent threats he allegedly made during a livestream. Taranto boosted the TruthSocial post in which Trump purportedly shared Obama’s home address before showing up there.