The suspect was covered from head to toe, prowling the dark streets of the nation’s capital before methodically placing two explosives outside the offices of the Republican and Democratic National Committees.
Only 17 hours later – and just before the U.S. Capitol was stormed by a sea of pro-Trump rioters – the homemade bombs were discovered. It quickly became one of the highest priority investigations for the FBI and the Department of Justice.
But the track cools down almost immediately. A year later, federal investigators are no closer to learning the person’s identity. And a key question remains: was there a link between the homemade bombs and the riot on Capitol Hill?
The suspect is one of hundreds of people still wanted by the FBI after the deadly insurgency last January. So far, 250 people seen on video assaulting police on Capitol Hill have still not been fully identified and apprehended by the FBI, and another 100 are wanted for other riot-related crimes.
The investigation was a massive undertaking for federal law enforcement officials. More than 700 people have been charged with federal crimes stemming from the January 6 attack, and arrests continue to be made on a regular basis.
But for the FBI agents working on the cases, the job is far from done. Agents and investigative analysts have looked at thousands of hours of surveillance video, going second by second in each video in an attempt to capture clear footage of people who attacked agents inside the Capitol.
“This investigation is taking time because it’s a lot of work, a lot of painstaking work that they’re watching the kind of frame-by-frame video,” Steven D’Antuono, the deputy director in charge of the FBI’s field office, told Washington.
In one case, police body camera footage captured a man using a cane with electric prods on the end, punching officers and shocking them as they fight to hold back the rampaging mob trying to break through a barricaded line officers at one of the doors of the Capitol. The crackle of electricity can be heard as he pushes his cane into one of the officers. The man, known only as “AFO114” – using a shorthand for “assaulting a federal officer” – is still wanted.
“The assaults on the police are extremely serious,” D’Antuono said. More than 100 police officers were attacked by rioters on January 6, some attacked by several people and others several times, he said.
In another video, a man is seen repeatedly hitting a policeman over the head with a 1.8-meter metal pole as he tries to force his way into the Capitol. And a third shows a man spraying some sort of chemical from a can onto the faces of other officers.
“There is still a lot of work to be done on this,” D’Antuono said. “There were a lot of people up there on Capitol Hill, a lot of people who committed violence there committed other illegal acts there.”
In searching for the person who left the homemade bombs in the RNC and DNC offices, investigators interviewed more than 900 people, collected 39,000 video files, and examined more than 400 leads. They delved into the components of the explosives and tried to discern everything they could about the suspect, from analyzing the person’s gait to gathering information on purchases of the distinctive Nike sneakers the person was wearing. .
But they are still no closer to finding the identity of the suspect and are hoping that renewed attention to the video of the person could trigger a trick to solve the case.
The explosive devices were placed outside the two buildings between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on January 5, 2021, but were not located by the police until the next day. U.S. Capitol Police and agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were called to the Republican National Committee office at around 12:45 p.m. on January 6. About 30 minutes later, while bomb officers and technicians were still investigating at the RNC, another call arrived for a similar explosive device found at the Democratic National Committee headquarters nearby. The bombs were made safe and no one was injured.
Video released by the FBI shows a person in a gray hooded sweatshirt, face mask and gloves appearing to place one of the explosives under a bench outside the DNC and separately shows the person walking in an alley near the RNC before the bomb was placed there. The person wore black and light gray Nike Air Max Speed Turf sneakers with a yellow logo.
“We have used and continue to use all investigative tools we have legally available to locate this individual,” D’Antuono said. But, a year later, investigators are still unsure whether the suspect is male or female. The person carried the bombs – made of threaded galvanized pipes, kitchen timers and homemade black powder – in a backpack.
“We’re still right on target and trying to find this individual, trying to bring the person to justice,” D’Antuono said. “But I hope there might still be someone who knows the person or is reviewing the video.”
It is not known whether the bombs were linked to insurgency planning or whether they were not linked to the deadly riot. Both buildings are a few blocks from the Capitol.
And the fact that the suspect was covered from head to toe made it extremely difficult for the FBI to identify the person.
“Under normal circumstances, as if it wasn’t COVID,” D’Antuono said, “a person walking down the street in DC covered from head to toe with a mask, goggles and gloves would have been a red flag . ”