A retired firefighter in Pennsylvania will be remain in federal custody pending his trial after prosecutors filed charges alleging he hurled a fire extinguisher at police during last week’s US Capitol riots.
Robert Sanford, 55, of Chester, Pennsylvania, appeared in a virtual hearing in federal court in Allentown, Pennsylvania on Thursday to face charges of unlawful entry, civil disorder and assaulting, resisting or impeding police.
Sanford was captured on video hurling a fire extinguisher at police during the mob attack at the Capitol, according to court documents.
Prosecutors said a search warrant executed at Sanford’s home this week uncovered paraphernalia referencing the far-right ‘Proud Boys’ group. Sanford’s lawyer told the judge his client is not a member of any extremist group and has no criminal history.
The judge ordered Sanford to be detained pending trial, saying he posed a ‘danger to the community’ as well as to ‘democracy and our legislators’.
Sanford is not the same person suspected of killing Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick after he was struck on the head with a fire extinguisher during the riots, officials said. The FBI has not yet released details about possible suspects in Sicknick’s death. They say the investigation into the officer’s death remains ongoing.
Robert Sanford, a retired firefighter from Chester, Pennsylvania, was arrested on Thursday for allegedly throwing a fire extinguisher at police officers during last week’s insurrection at the US Capitol. The photos above were included in an affidavit for Sanford’s arrest
An affidavit filed in connection with Sanford’s arrest states that the incident was caught on video at about 2.30pm during the riots on January 6. A screengrab from the video, which was included in the affidavit, is shown above, with Sanford circled in red
Senator Bill Cassidy had earlier tweeted the photos of Sanford, saying the suspect shown in the video was wanted in connection with Sicknick’s death.
He deleted his tweet after authorities confirmed the man identified by Cassidy was not the same suspect wanted over the officer’s death.
An affidavit connected to Sanford’s arrest states that the incident was caught on video at about 2.30pm during the January 6 riots outside the Capitol.
‘The video was shot from an elevated position and showed an area of the Capitol with a large group of police officers surrounded on at least three sides by a group of insurrectionists,’ the affidavit said.
The extinguisher allegedly hit three officers on the head, including one who was not wearing a helmet.
‘The object appears to strike one officer, who was wearing a helmet, in the head. The object then ricochets and strikes another officer, who was not wearing a helmet, in the head. The object then ricochets a third time and strikes a third officer, wearing a helmet, in the head,’ the documents say.
The affidavit included this undated driver’s license photo of Sanford
The affidavit includes a screenshot from a video that was widely circulated on social media in the aftermath of the riots.
The affidavit says that Sanford recently retired from the Chester Fire Department.
According to court documents, a friend of Sanford’s contacted the FBI to identify him as being involved in the insurrection.
The friend said Sanford had told them he traveled to Washington DC, on a bus with a group of people who had attended President Donald Trump’s speech at the White House ‘and then had followed the President’s instructions and gone to the Capitol’, the document states.
The video included in the affidavit shows a man wearing a blue knit cap with the letters ‘CFD’ stitched on the front and ‘SANFORD’ on the back.
It shows the suspect picking a fire extinguisher up off the ground and then walking toward a crowd of police officers who were attempting to keep protesters from breaching barriers. The suspect then hurls the extinguisher in the direction of the officers.
‘Immediately after throwing the object, the subject moves quickly in the opposite direction,’ the affidavit states.
One of the officers, William Young of the Capitol Police, described the incident to investigators, saying he felt a ‘hard strike’ to the back of his helmet.
The affidavit says that Sanford recently retired from the Chester Fire Department. He is pictured here in a 2019 photo posted on the fire department’s Facebook page
At the beginning of the video the fire extinguisher is seen lying on the ground amid the chaos (left) before a man in a backpack leans down to pick it up (right)
The man then walks toward a crowd of police officers who were attempting to keep protesters from breaching barriers and hurls the fire extinguisher in their direction
The object appears to ricochet off the helmets of two officers before hitting a third who was not wearing a helmet
When he turned to see where the object came from, he saw the extinguisher on the ground but could not determine who had thrown it, he said.
Young was subsequently taken to a hospital for evaluation before being cleared for duty.
Authorities released a photo of the man in the video on Tuesday and asked anyone with information to contact the FBI.
According to the affidavit, Sanford told his friend that he was the person in the photo released by authorities.
The friend said Sanford, however, had said ‘they’ were only at the Capitol for about 10 minutes and did not mention throwing any objects.
The friend said they have known Sanford for many years.
The Justice Department has brought more than 70 criminal cases so far since Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6, trying to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden as the winner of the election.
The violence, which left five dead including Sicknick, led to the impeachment of Trump on Wednesday by the House of Representatives on a charge of inciting an insurrection.
Shortly before the attack, Trump had fired up a crowd of supporters, repeating his baseless claims that he won the election and urging them to go to the Capitol.
Many of the people arrested so far were captured on social media bragging about taking part in the assault, and the FBI has been combing through more than 100,000 videos and photographs.
After the violence was quelled, most of the rioters were allowed to leave the Capitol, meaning law enforcement has had to track them down in the days since.
Authorities on Tuesday released this photo, saying the man was wanted for questioning