September 5, 2023, marked a significant milestone in the pursuit of justice against those who organized and led the January 6, 2021 insurrection. Enrique Tarrio, the leader of one of the largest and most violent extremist groups, the Proud Boys, was convicted of seditious conspiracy to overthrow the government of The United States.
Tarrio’s 22-year sentence was the longest sentence as yet handed down by federal courts. Even more significant is the fact that Tarrio was not even present at the Capitol during the insurrection. His planning and leadership leading up to the events of that day were enough for the Judge to send a signal to any others planning such a violent action.
Yet, even as a federal judge handed down the sentence, Chaffee County’s own wannabe Proud Boy continues to take to the streets of Salida with an assault rifle and a distressed American Flag.
Perhaps “wannabe” is inaccurate because, as seen in the related social media images, had the account Taylor appealed to been real and not fake, he would have become a full member of the Proud Boys.
Four days after the January 6 insurrection, on January 10, 2021, Danny Taylor first stepped onto U.S. 50 and U.S. 291 with his AR15 and upside-down American Flag. Taylor’s appeal to the Proud Boys occurred in April 2021 three months after he started standing on the corner of U.S. 50 and U.S. 291 on the east end of Salida.
It should be pointed out that the First Amendment to the Constitution provides the following protections: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, freedom to petition our government for grievances, and freedom of religion. Those rights should be applied equally, including for those who chose to counter-protest other protesters, and while exercising that right do not break other statutes.
Taylor’s presence on the corner of U.S. 50 and U.S. 291 did not go unnoticed. Another Salida citizen, Kevin O’Donnell, observed Taylor standing on the corner, with gun, flag, and bullhorn, and started chronicling his actions in a journal:
“He has continued his brandishing antics every Sunday afternoon 2:00 p.m, [to] 5:00 p.m… He marches in an abrupt manner back and forth waving his distress signal flag … Often he has been seen with the AR-15 across his midsection with one hand on the stock of the weapon.”
“He uses his megaphone to broadcast right-wing slurs at passing cars. ‘Nazi…Overthrow Now… Save America…’ Danny wears a bulletproof vest and yells ‘I need this vest because at least four to five passing motorists aim weapons at me every Sunday.’”
In May 2021 the 72-year-old O’Donnell had seen enough and contacted Salida Police Chief Russ Johnson.
“It was mid-May when I first called Chief Johnson expecting him to be as concerned as I was. Wrong. The Chief explained Dan was merely exercising his right to ‘OPEN CARRY’ and there was no need even to check his ID and run a background check … Then he continued, ‘However, you have the right to stage a counter-protest if you feel that strongly’.”
O’Donnell then informed the Chief “[He] would first call the FBI tip line and get their advice.” According to O’Donnell the FBI appeared interested and took a lengthy statement. “They advised that a counter-protest was a reasonable next step.”
O’Donnell Informed the Salida Police Department Prior to staging a Counter-protest
O’Donnell counter-protested Taylor three times. Each time he informed Salida police what he intended and where he was going to be in relation to Taylor. Walking with a cane and signs, he showed up across U.S. 50 from Taylor.
“I kinda did this [contacted the police] in case I needed help too,” O’Donnell told AVV.
At the first counter-protest, May 16, O’Donnell placed three signs along the north side of Oak Street leading up to the intersection with U.S. 50. The next Sunday, May 23, 2021, (O’Donnell’s second counter-protest) he left a message with Chief Johnson “on May 22 letting him know that I’d be on the opposite corner the following afternoon,” and again set up the three signs.
This was the last entry in O’Donnell’s written account. However, it was only the beginning of an arduous criminal prosecution.
This is how O’Donnell describes it in the introduction to his written chronicle.
“Little did I realize nine months ago how much Danny Taylor would change my life … I have been put in handcuffs three times in my peaceful home and dragged to jail. I have had seven court appearances, and now I’m scheduled for a preliminary trial on October 25 . I’m facing four to six years in prison on the charge of ‘Intimidating a Crime Victim’. Oh my!”
On May 25, 2021, Salida law enforcement arrived and arrested O’Donnell, charging him with 18-9-111 Harassment Insults Taunts Challenges and 18-4-504 3rd Degree Criminal Trespass. This arrest and the subsequent two arrests appear to stem from an event that occurred on May 23, 2021 according to charging documents.
The charging documents do not indicate what exactly O’Donnell said to Taylor to warrant the harassment charge. But O’Donnell recalls the officers telling him that he (O’Donnell) had told Taylor ‘his mother would be ashamed of him and he [O’Donnell] should call her to let her know what her son was doing’ and that Taylor felt threatened by that statement.
According to O’Donnell, during his second counter-protest, he drove past Taylor and took a photograph of him (something that any motorist on that road might have done.)
“Put a good caption on it for me.” O’Donnell remembers Taylor yelling as he took the photograph.
After O’Donnell placed that enlarged image of Taylor on the doorstep of his in-town residence, he was charged with Criminal Trespassing; for walking up a sidewalk to a front step.
The enlarged image was of Taylor standing on the corner “protesting” and the caption read. “Forgive him Father for he knows not what he does.”
During O’Donnell’s third counter-protest, customers at a nearby business located on the north corner of U.S. 50 and Oak Street filmed a verbal exchange between Taylor and O’Donnell.
As seen in the video, O’Donnell and Taylor are seen trading verbal jabs at one another even though it is difficult to hear O’Donnell due to Taylor’s use of a megaphone. O’Donnell does not recall cussing at or using any other vulgar insults during the verbal sparring.
At one point Taylor is seen running across the street to where the much-older protester, O’Donnell was standing after one particular heated exchange. As Taylor departed O’Donnell’s side of the intersection, O’Donnell overheard him complaining about feeling threatened and saw him using his phone. He called the police.
On June 17, 2021, O”Donnell was arrested for the second time and formally charged by District Attorney Linda Stanley for 18-8-706 Retaliation Against a Witness, a felony (which is a strange charge — which crime and what on earth is the retaliation?). In her charging document, Stanley used the May 23 date as the date of the incident. It is unclear why she increased the penalty to F3 felony after O’Donnell had already been arrested for Harassment and trespassing from that same date.
The DA’s enhancement of charges to a Felony automatically triggered a protection order for Taylor, against O’Donnell.
Then, on August 4, 2021, in a subsequent court appearance, Taylor positioned himself in the doorway of the courtroom that O’Donnell had to enter. “I couldn’t get by him [Taylor], so I said ‘Hi Danny, how you doing?'” O’Donnell told AVV.
O’Donnell then stepped around Taylor and sat down in the courtroom. According to the charging document, this violated the protection order, and later that day — you guessed it — Salida police arrived at O’Donnell’s home; arresting him for the third time and charging him with 18-6-803.5 Violation of a Protection Order.
It was also during this court appearance that O’Donnell recalls Judge Patrick Murphy making a ruling to extend the trial date. At which point Taylor, who was in the courtroom, stood and loudly said “This is f***ing ridiculous!” as he left the courtroom slamming the door. Taylor’s actions resulted in a prompt and forceful admonishment by Judge Murphy.
On October 25, 2021, O’Donnell appeared in court for his trial related to the felony Intimidation of a Witness.
Prior to the trial while sitting in the hallway, O’Donnell’s attorney held a pretrial conference with the prosecuting attorney. During that conference, the above video was played. The prosecuting attorney returned to the courtroom and informed Judge Murphy he was dropping the charges.
The court process appeared to have gotten this situation right finally; justice was done and charges were dismissed. But only after months of turmoil for O’Donnell. Rational people might be disturbed at how law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office got it so thoroughly wrong.
It is difficult to understand how any unarmed individual (especially one over the age of 70 walking with a cane) could be arrested for intimidating an armed individual in his prime; let alone one such as Taylor whose verbal abuse and vulgarities rivaled some of the worst this reporter (and former law enforcement professional) has ever heard.
Then there is this unanswered question: why did law enforcement criminally charge O’Donnell so many times knowing he had carefully contacted who he thought was the proper authority – the police chief and the FBI?
Why has the Salida Police Department assured not just AVV but other concerned residents that Taylor is no threat who has done nothing that threatens or alarms the general population? He is clearly heard on the video yelling this demand: “Do you want a mass murder here?”
Of course, returning again to the First Amendment; why was the counter-protestor O’Donnell the one to be arrested for doing what law enforcement told him he could do, which happens to be his Constitutional right?
Editor’s note: For the background on this news story, follow this link.