WASHINGTON — Nearly three years ago, a young professional in the nation’s capital was sitting in her apartment after the Jan. 6 attack and saw that the FBI was looking for help identifying the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol. So she opened up the Bumble dating app, changed her political beliefs to conservative and got to swiping.
The woman reached out to several Donald Trump supporters who the app showed were in the Washington area, hoping to elicit confessions from those who had flooded into the city because they believed his lies about the 2020 presidential election.
On Wednesday, one of the Bumble users she turned in to the FBI pleaded guilty to assaulting law enforcement officers with chemical spray and a metal whip.
Andrew Taake, 35, of Texas, pleaded guilty to assaulting law enforcement officers with a deadly and dangerous weapon, admitting that he used both bear spray and a metal whip to attack officers, at a hearing before U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols in Washington. Taake, who had been ordered held in pretrial detention after he was arrested in July 2021, appeared in a sparsely filled courtroom Wednesday in an orange prison jumpsuit.
“Guilty,” Taake pleaded, telling Nichols he was entering his plea voluntarily and of his own free will.
The woman referred to as “Witness 1” in Taake’s FBI affidavit has previously recalled how “comically minimal ego-stroking” from her led Trump supporters to give her information about their activities on Jan. 6.
“I felt a bit of ‘civic duty,’ I guess, but truthfully, I was mostly just mad and thinking, f— these guys,” she said, speaking anonymously for fear of online reprisal.
Her strategy, she said, was to say, “Wow, crazy, tell me more,” on repeat until guys gave her enough to send their information to the FBI.
She ended up chatting with about a dozen guys in the days after the Jan. 6 attack, and she said they made comments that were “very on-brand for a MAGA rally” when they parroted the debunked talking points about the 2020 election they were hearing from prominent Republicans. They couldn’t see her rolling her eyes on the other side of the phone.
“They just wanted to regurgitate a lot of these ideas to somebody, and it seemed like I was a willing participant,” she said. “It definitely didn’t take a lot of arm-twisting to get them to start talking about it. Basically me being like ‘Wow, so cool — then what? What else?’ was pretty much all it took.”
“One of my friends was like, ‘You basically got all these confessions just being, like, “Haha! Then what?”’” she said.
In Taake’s case, Witness 1 stumbled on his profile and started asking him questions and found he was very willing to brag to a woman he’d just met virtually. NBC News has viewed screenshots of messages Taake and the woman exchanged in the app.
“Were you near all the action?” she asked.
“Yes,” Taake replied. “From the very beginning.” He sent along a selfie he took shortly after he was pepper-sprayed.
In the days after the attack, she continued chatting with Taake, falsely telling him that she couldn’t video-chat because she was at a beer garden with friends. She tried to gather more intel, asking him whether he planned to come back for Joe Biden’s inauguration.
“Maybe depending on what happens with election,” Taake wrote. “Biden still isn’t in office … and there is too much criminal stuff to come out. There are many many Patriots ready and willing to head back depending what happens.”
Taake, a self-employed handyman who owned a pressure-washing business, had a felony record, but authorities found multiple guns at his home when they took him into custody. He was on bond in a separate case when he stormed the Capitol, with a pending charge of soliciting a minor online; court records in Harris County, Texas, show that case is still active.
Taake’s “willingness to physically assault officers with bear spray and a metal whip, while on bond and conditions of release for the felony offense of solicitation of a minor, demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he poses a concrete threat both to the community and to specific individuals,” a federal magistrate judge wrote, bolding for emphasis, in ordering Taake detained until trial.
His sentencing was set for March 26.
Taake wasn’t the only Jan. 6 defendant arrested thanks to intrepid Bumble users. Robert Chapman was sentenced to home detention on a misdemeanor charge after a Bumble match turned him in.
Reached by NBC News after Taake’s guilty plea, the woman who sent his identity to the FBI was glad to see him held accountable.
“FINALLY,” the woman said Wednesday. “It’s been wild to see him still defend that attack all this time and makes me even more glad he was caught for it.”
“I regret exactly nothing lol,” she said Wednesday.