With vibrant purple and white stripes throughout his physique and stars down his sleeves, the person within the American flag jacket and “FLORIDA FOR TRUMP” hat wielded a fireplace extinguisher whereas charging the U.S. Capitol on the afternoon of Jan. 6. He shoved his manner by means of the gang of rioters to the police line, then sprayed officers at close range earlier than chucking the emptied canister at them. By dusk he himself had been flippantly harmed, apparently by a police crowd management munition. He held up his shirt to point out off his bruised intestine throughout an interview with a feminine journalist filming him dwell as cops pushed the mob again from Capitol grounds. Then he seemed straight into her livestreaming gadget and identified himself as Robert Palmer from Clearwater, Florida.
At this level, the person had not solely assaulted federal officers earlier than a sea of smartphones whereas carrying extremely distinctive apparel, he’d additionally willingly revealed his personal identify and hometown on video on the scene of the crime — whereas nonetheless in the identical outfit.
This isn’t your typical “Florida Man” story, regardless of its absurdity. This is the story of a violent insurrectionist who’s nonetheless at massive — practically two months later — and one lady who joined the web sleuthing communities crowdsourcing their efforts to carry a Capitol attacker to justice.
Robert Scott Palmer is a white 53-year-old husband and father who runs Son Bright Systems, a cleansing and restoration enterprise. His prison report consists of being sentenced on costs of battery and felony fraud.
HuffPost verified his identification by means of a search of public information and social media accounts related to Palmer, after receiving a tip from Amy, a girl residing in a rural space out west who in her free time joined the #SeditionHunters community, a web based sleuthing group looking for to determine the tons of of Trump supporters who rioted on the Capitol. (Amy is a pseudonym she selected to guard her privateness.)
Reached by cellphone late Thursday afternoon, Palmer confirmed he was on the Capitol on Jan. 6 and gave the livestream interview. He claimed that he’d finished nothing to justify being struck with the police munition, and that the Biden administration was making an attempt to “vilify the patriots” who had been concerned within the riot.
“I’m just going about it and letting them make the mistakes that they want and ruin the country as they want, and I’m just trying to live my life right now,” he mentioned, including that the jacket he wore “wasn’t anything I had made special — [I] just bought it in a store.”
Palmer appeared to develop more and more anxious as the decision continued.
“I’m just going to just leave it like that. I’m not getting myself any — not deeper, ’cause I didn’t do anything wrong — but I’m not involving myself anymore,” he mentioned. He hung up when HuffPost requested him in regards to the fireplace extinguisher.
While Palmer was storming the Capitol in January, Amy was dwelling sick, 1000’s of miles away. She had contracted COVID-19 and was getting stressed whereas recovering in isolation. After watching in horror because the revolt unfolded, she determined to make use of a few of her time in quarantine poring over footage from the assault and making an attempt to trace down rioters. Using the Twitter deal with @CountryOvParty, she labored with the group @capitolhunters as they tried to mine by means of a seemingly infinite movement of pictures and movies, assigning catchy hashtags to numerous individuals of curiosity to carry some order to the chaos.
“The more that I watched [from the insurrection] the more that I felt like I had lost control over what this country was supposed to be,” mentioned Amy, who’s a federal worker. “Spending that time searching was a way to regain control of the situation for me.”
The FBI remains to be looking down the insurrectionists who flooded the Capitol as a result of they believed former President Donald Trump’s false claims about mass voter fraud and supported his efforts to overturn the outcomes of the 2020 presidential election. It’s a monumental job. The unprecedented investigation entails tons of of suspects, tons of of 1000’s of suggestions and hundreds of thousands of items of proof. Keeping it organized and determining which suspects the bureau ought to prioritize is an awesome logistical nightmare that few entities ― even the nation’s premier legislation enforcement group ― are outfitted to deal with.
The FBI wants the general public’s assist, and loads of citizen sleuths are able to pitch in. But as their investigations transfer at web pace, some members of the crowdsourced effort are getting a bit flustered once they ship in strong suggestions, don’t hear something again from the bureau, and have to wonder if the knowledge they supplied obtained into the appropriate arms.
When they don’t hear again from the bureau, tipsters can really feel like they only tossed their tip down a effectively, prefer it obtained buried in a large pile.
The FBI doesn’t usually provide feedback about ongoing investigations into particular people, and the bureau didn’t achieve this right here.
Amy was amongst those that wished to assist out. At first, she centered on the person later recognized as Robert Sanford, a retired firefighter from outdoors of Philadelphia who additionally tossed one other fireplace extinguisher at three cops. He was carrying a “CFD” hat, so Amy went about researching fireplace departments in cities that begin with the letter “C.”
“I spent hours searching through C-named fire departments throughout the country, primarily in the east or Northeast or Midwest, because where would you need a ski cap?” she mentioned. Soon, different on-line sleuths helped determine Sanford, who had retired final yr from the Chester Fire Department in Pennsylvania. He was arrested in mid-January and now faces 5 federal costs, together with civil dysfunction and assaulting officers utilizing a harmful weapon.
Amy saved going. She went by means of each single clip pulled from the right-wing social media web site Parler, which had been posted and printed by ProPublica. She saved going by means of movies and pictures of the assault. Soon #FloridaFlagJacket drew Amy’s consideration. “I got locked onto this guy and the jacket, because the jacket is so unique,” she recalled.
Palmer wasn’t very incognito. His already distinctive jacket was embroidered with “TRUMP” on the back and front, and his “FLORIDA FOR TRUMP” hat supplied a reasonably robust trace about his dwelling state. He was carrying a “MASKING UNDER PROTEST” masks, a singular merchandise that Amy discovered was bought on a “Patriot’s Cave” web site and may be discovered on one other web site known as “American Patriot Depot.”
The items had been beginning to come collectively. When another person within the sleuthing group discovered a video of Palmer later that night time, it was the ultimate straw.
“Someone else found the YouTube clip where he said his name, and that was the dealbreaker,” she mentioned. She despatched in one other tip to the FBI.
Then she waited. And waited. And waited.
Palmer is now publicly on the FBI’s radar, although not by identify. Three pictures of him are featured on the bureau’s Capitol violence page, the place he’s listed solely as “#246 – AFO [Assault on Federal Officer].” But the photographs didn’t seem there till practically a month after Amy had already tipped off the FBI about his identification.
#FloridaFlagJacket was used as a hashtag on Twitter lower than per week after the Capitol assault, when Trump was nonetheless in workplace. Amy despatched in a tip naming Palmer not lengthy after President Joe Biden was inaugurated. His pictures had been lastly added to the FBI database in late February.
In the week since HuffPost printed a narrative figuring out 38-year-old Daniel Joseph Rodriguez from Fontana, California, because the MAGA-hatted insurrectionist who tasered a D.C. cop, we’ve been flooded with further suggestions from people who contacted the FBI with strong info and are questioning what occurred to their suggestions.
Do you will have details about a violent Capitol insurrectionist who’s nonetheless at massive? We’d love to listen to from you: firstname.lastname@example.org or jesselyn.prepare email@example.com
When they don’t hear again from the bureau, tipsters can really feel like they only tossed their tip down a effectively, prefer it obtained buried in a large pile of greater than 270,000 suggestions acquired from the general public. They don’t know if anybody is on the opposite aspect, or what motion ― if any ― is going on behind the scenes. It’s a sense acquainted to anybody who’s ever utilized for a job on-line.
Tipsters notice the bureau is overwhelmed. But the radio silence can nonetheless be irritating, particularly when it entails a suspect who used violence towards cops on the Capitol in a riot throughout which one officer died and dozens of others had been injured.
“One of the downsides is you don’t know if anybody ever sees what you sent,” Amy mentioned. But she acknowledged the large sea of knowledge the bureau is making an attempt to type by means of. “If I was on the other end getting those tips, I’d be frustrated,” she added.
As she’s poked round on-line on the lookout for insurrectionists, Amy has seen how they had been radicalized on-line. She thinks that the COVID-related lockdowns had a large influence sending folks down the paths of conspiracy theories.
“If you go to their Facebook posts [from] before a year ago, there were pictures of them fishing and camping and, you know, going to Disney World,” Amy mentioned. “But in the last year, their posts became more and more only about politics. Less pictures of family.”
On Palmer’s Facebook web page, he proudly shows his love for Trump and embrace of Trump’s voter fraud conspiracy theories. It’s affected by posts spreading false details about Biden’s election, denigrating the Black Lives Matter motion and downplaying the necessity for COVID-19 security protocols. A video Palmer uploaded in December seems to point out him cheering on a parade of Proud Boys marching down the road in D.C.
After the Capitol assault, Palmer posted a clip of Bill O’Reilly suggesting that Trump wasn’t accountable for inciting the violence on the Capitol, which Palmer, after all, took half in. He posted a Dan Bongino video complaining about Parler happening. And his expertise on the Capitol didn’t dissuade him from his beliefs that the election was stolen.
“In the event of a Civil War, I’m not afraid of the 81 Million Biden Voters,” reads a meme he posted on Jan. 12. “Half are dead and don’t exist!”
“Sad thing is to think of the sacrifice that our men and women in uniform have made is now all in vain,” he posted on the day of Biden’s inauguration. “Death is come [sic] to the Republic.”
When HuffPost knowledgeable Amy that Palmer had admitted over the cellphone that he was the person within the American flag outfit seen within the livestream interview, she mentioned the truth that he hadn’t realized the FBI was on the lookout for him confirmed simply how fractured the media setting had change into.
“He’s FBI #246-AFO, and not only does he not know it, but no one in his circle knows it,” she mentioned. “You’ve got to think people that know him know he was there. And he’s got a wound, do they really think he got that wound from doing nothing?”
Getting an admission from Palmer confirming his identification and his presence on the riot in a Trump American flag jacket is the type of information Amy was ready for. “It sure is satisfying to have some closure on it,” Amy mentioned.
“You go through that and say, ‘Is this stupid?’ ‘Am I wasting my time?’ and whatnot,” Amy mentioned. “Then you get another tidbit or another photo. You have just enough crumbs and eventually you get a piece of candy, and you just keep going.”
Now Amy, whose COVID-19 signs have gone away, is simply ready for one more notification: one which lets her know the FBI lastly got here knocking on Palmer’s door.
“I will probably open a bottle of champagne,” Amy mentioned. “Which I can enjoy now, since I can taste.”
Roque Planas contributed reporting.
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up for membership to change into a founding member and assist form HuffPost’s subsequent chapter