WASHINGTON — The FBI arrested a Jan. 6 riot participant thanks in part to a conversation the man had with his Uber driver the night of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to court records unsealed Tuesday.
On the evening of Jan. 6, 2021, just after 7 p.m., a Donald Trump supporter hopped into the back of an Uber in downtown Washington, D.C., about a mile northwest of the U.S. Capitol.
It was about an hour after the curfew imposed by Washington's mayor, and the man had an obvious injury to his eye. The Uber driver — who had a camera mounted in his car that recorded the ride and that he subsequently turned over to police — struck up a conversation about the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol, the court records showed.
“So, has it been violent all day?” the driver asked.
“Well, it started around, right when I got there. I tore down the barricades,” the man replied.
“You did?” the driver asked. “Why?”
“Well, because, so we could get to the Capitol,” the man replied.
“Well, how’d that work out for ya?” the driver asked.
“Well,” he replied, “it looks like, uh, Biden’s gonna be our president.”
Fifteen months later, the FBI says the passenger was Jerry Daniel Braun, who is now facing federal charges.
Braun was arrested by the FBI in California earlier this month and faces charges of obstruction during civil disorder, entering and remaining on restricted grounds, and violent or disorderly conduct.
The Uber driver tipped off the FBI right after the Capitol attack and was interviewed by a special agent in January and February 2021, according to an FBI affidavit unsealed Tuesday. The driver also provided the footage captured by their dashcam, the FBI said. Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Uber driver took the man across the river to a Holiday Inn in Arlington, Virginia, where Braun was checked in under the name J.D. Braun, according to the court filing.
Braun's attorney, John Machado, declined to comment.
While the FBI affidavit doesn’t state it outright, online sleuths also played a significant role in the case against Braun. NBC News has learned Braun was separately identified by members of a group of online sleuths early last year. The group has successfully identified hundreds of additional Capitol rioters who have not yet been arrested by the FBI.
Nearly 800 defendants have been charged in connection with the Capitol attack so far, and more than 250 have pleaded guilty. The total number of individuals who either entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 or assaulted law enforcement outside tops 2,500, officials have estimated.The FBI affidavit in Braun's case mentioned that the bureau reviewed images that showed a business card poking out of Braun’s pocket. It listed a web address for “ShotGunShock” and read, “Ask for JD,” the affidavit said. Sleuths made the identification more than a year ago, in March 2021.
Video footage shows Braun “physically struggling with law-enforcement officers using a barricade,” the FBI affidavit stated. Braun was also videoed using a wooden plank to strike a photographer wearing a “PRESS” helmet, the affidavit said.
The FBI served a search warrant of Braun's residence in South El Monte, California, in November 2021, and Braun confessed he'd been in Washington at the Capitol attack, according to the affidavit.
"After being asked by the agents if BRAUN had anything he wanted to tell them before he departed the search location, BRAUN responded, 'Guilty,'" the FBI affidavit stated. "When asked what he was guilty of, BRAUN responded, 'Everything.'"
The FBI also said it seized Braun's cellphone and found a selfie showing his eye injury, which he had called a "Souvenir from DC."
In messages on Jan. 11, 2021, Braun told someone that he "Occupied the capitol" and described "Hand to hand combat," according to the affidavit.
In an outgoing message from Braun's phone on Jan. 6, 2021, the FBI affidavit said he described his intentions: “We tried to stop the steal but they wouldn’t let us in ... we are sick of all the talk.”