Daniel Baker got kicked out of the Army for going AWOL. Then, years later, he traveled to Syria to fight against ISIS militants alongside Kurdish militia. Now he’s under arrest in Florida for allegedly inciting violence in his bid to “Defend Tallahassee” from supporters of President Donald Trump.
Those are just the top-level details from a recent Department of Justice press release on Baker’s Jan. 15 arrest.
According to the release, agents with the FBI arrested Baker without incident on the charge of “transmission, in interstate commerce, of a communication containing a threat to kidnap or to injure.”
Baker took to social media and issued a “call to arms for like-minded individuals” to rally to the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee to “violently confront protesters” gathered there this Sunday and called on others “to join him in encircling any protestors and confining them at the Capitol complex using firearms,” reads the statement.
In a number of videos and photos shared to his social media accounts, Baker can be seen with a variety of weapons, including those with high-capacity magazines, while other posts show that he was “actively attempting to purchase additional firearms within the last 24-48 hours,” according to the Department of Justice release.
If convicted Baker faces up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
Baker enlisted in the Army as an airborne infantryman in 2006, but was dishonorably discharged just one year later for going AWOL ahead of his unit’s deployment to Iraq, according to a federal criminal complaint.
Following his removal from the service, Baker spent the next several years largely homeless and unemployed, residing in the Tallahassee area and occasionally working as a security guard.
Then, he traveled to Syria in 2017 where he joined the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, a Kurdish militant group fighting ISIS extremists. The YPG is a “sub-affiliate” of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), “which is designated by the United States government as a Foreign Terrorist Organization,” notes the press release.
While in Syria, Baker was featured in a Vice News documentary, according to the court filings.
He also claimed to be a “trained sniper” on social media, writing the following caption on a Jan. 30, 2019 YouTube post: “My first battle against isis in Syria, I killed many terrorists, rescued 3 VICE news reporters and saved 2 wounded friends.”
The federal criminal complaint provides some additional context about his use of social media to call for violence, one of which was flagged by the FBI as far back as October.
On Oct. 8, 2020, the FBI received a tip that Baker was “threatening the use of violence in the United States and was using social media to recruit and train like-minded individuals in furtherance of his Anti-Government or Anti-Authority Violent Extremism Ideology,” according to the complaint.
Many of Baker’s threats, according to the complaint, were targeted at those he believes are white supremacists or fascists.
Those calls for violence escalated in frequency and severity following the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol in which a violent mob stormed the building while members of Congress were tallying electoral college votes. The riot followed a rally in support of Trump, who insisted, falsely, that the election was stolen.
In the wake of the unrest at the nation’s capital, Baker’s online presence became “increasingly ripe with extremist rhetoric,” reads the criminal complaint. Those comments include a Facebook event titled “Defend Tallahassee.”
The event appears to be in response to fears that pro-Trump rallies in Florida might devolve into violent riots during President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
In the Facebook event description, Baker calls for “militant friends” to use force to corral pro-Trump supporters at the state Capitol, and claims to have recruited other military veterans.
And if there was still any doubt left from that, there’s also the flyer that Baker printed out calling for “all Florida residents to rise up” on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, and “encircle terrorists who attack the Capitol! Let them take the capitol and fight with cops, SURROUND THEM AND TRAP THEM INSIDE!”
The flyer, which Baker filmed himself printing out and then posted to YouTube on Jan. 13, also calls for military veterans to join him.
“Tally residents have answered the call to arms, including combat veterans. Join us! Help protect your community from terrorists. We WILL protect capitol RESIDENTS and CIVILIANS from armed racist mobs WITH EVERY CALIBER AVAILABLE.”
“This arrest serves as a message to anyone who intends to incite or commit violence in the Northern District of Florida: If you represent a threat to public safety, we will come for you, we will find you, and we will prosecute you,” Lawrence Keefe, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida said.
“Daniel Baker’s actions show that he is a dangerous extremist, and the law-abiding public is safer now that he has been arrested” Keefe continued. “We are, and will remain, on high alert and will take all appropriate actions against credible threats to the people of our District.”
Following his arrest, Baker was remanded to the Federal Detention Center in Tallahassee and appeared in court via video conference, during which time he spoke only once.
“I’d like to get out of here after Inauguration Day,” the Tallahassee Democrat reports. “I would prefer whatever is safest for me.”
CORRECTION: This article has been corrected to note that the YPG has not been designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The YPG is affiliated with the PKK, which has been designated a terrorist group by the United States.