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News / Northwest

Eastern WA man accused of stalking Obama denied bail. Officer’s widow to get benefits

By Cory McCoy, Tri-City Herald
Published: August 23, 2023, 7:47am

KENNEWICK — A Tri-Cities Jan. 6 insurrection defendant, jailed for threatening former President Obama and other lawmakers, remains behind bars as the widow of an officer he is accused of attacking wins her long fight for death benefits.

Taylor Taranto, who is currently in the D.C. Metropolitan Jail after threatening Obama and other lawmakers, and David Walls-Kaufman are being sued in the wrongful death of D.C. Metropolitan Officer Jeffrey Smith.

Taranto’s appeal to be granted bail so that he could return to his Eastern Washington hometown, was denied Monday morning, according to court documents.

The court brief also said his right to speedy trial was “excluded in the interest of justice.”

Taranto’s alleged role in the attack on Officer Smith was featured prominently in arguments that he was too dangerous to be granted bail. Walls-Kaufman was recently sentenced to two months in jail.

Officer’s death

After a two-year fight to have her husband’s death recognized as happening in the line of duty, Erin Smith has been awarded death benefits, according to NBC News.

Court documents show photos of Taranto and Walls-Kaufman grappling with Smith inside the capitol during the Jan. 6 attack.

Walls-Kaufman allegedly hit Smith in the head and face with a Ka-Bar defense cane given to him by Taranto. Smith also was hit with a metal pole that was thrown later outside of the building, according to NBC News.

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Smith died by suicide as he was scheduled to return to duty nine days later.

Smith’s widow said in an Op-Ed in the Washington Post, published in January 2022, that two medical examiners “have testified that post-concussive syndrome and brain injury were the real causes of (her husband’s) death” because the concussion he suffered led to severe depression and suicide.

She had been fighting to have his death recognized as in the line of duty for more than two years. She told NBC News that she will now fight to have her husband inurned in Arlington National Cemetery. Officer Brian Sicknick, who died from strokes related to injuries he sustained in the riot, is also buried in the national cemetery.

Taranto was named in the wrongful death lawsuit after outing himself by posting video from inside the Capitol building on social media. Online sleuths then found photos that linked Taranto to the attack.

Taranto has questioned why he wasn’t arrested sooner.

Livestreamed threats

Taranto was arrested at the end of June 2023 by Secret Service and federal agents while allegedly trying to find access points to Obama’s Kaloroma neighborhood property after days of livestreaming threats that included using his van to blow up House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and a federal building.

The attempt to “find tunnels” under Obama’s property came after former President Donald Trump posted the address on social media in reference to the conspiracy theories.

Trump has attempted to distance himself from Taranto, taking exception to news reports using a photo of Taranto with a cardboard cutout of Trump. That photo was taken at a Franklin County Republican Party event. He said they have never met.

Taranto is also accused of trespassing on school campuses in the D.C. area filming children and projecting Jan. 6 footage in an attempt to intimidate congressman Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland.

Two guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were found in his van near where he was arrested.

Taranto’s public defender had argued that he was not a danger to the community, and should be released to his wife in the Tri-Cities in order to receive mental healthcare.

They proposed the judge require him to seek inpatient treatment and ongoing outpatient treatment as part of the terms of release.

The lawyers said that the Navy veteran had been receiving mental healthcare from a VA hospital in the Seattle area that specializes in PTSD treatment.