Robert Sanford is a retired Pennsylvania firefighter who is accused of throwing a fire extinguisher that struck several Capitol police officers during the Capitol riot. The complaint says Sanford recently retired from the Chester Fire Department, located in Chester, Pennsylvania.
A prosecutor alleged in court that Sanford has suspected ties to the Proud Boys, according to Morning Call. A judge denied bail. Although Sanford’s lawyer said he wasn’t linked to extremist groups, authorities said they found a T-shirt at his home linked to the right-wing group. His lawyer also said he didn’t go inside the Capitol building.
Sanford was captured in video frames wearing a blue “CFD” hat. That led Internet sleuths to launch a quest to identify him, although some people on Twitter falsely named a Chicago man who wasn’t even in Washington D.C. at the time.
Some on social media began to speculate that the video could show the blow that may have ended the life of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who previous media reports say was struck by a fire extinguisher. Sicknick later collapsed at his office and eventually died. However, Sicknick was not among the officers in this video. You can watch the video below, but be aware that it’s disturbing.
“A retired Pennsylvania firefighter was charged yesterday and arrested today in Pennsylvania in connection with the riots at the U.S. Capitol last week,” the Department of Justice wrote in a press release. The complaint links to this video.
Robert Sanford, 55, of Boothwyn, Pennsylvania, was charged “with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, disorderly or disruptive conduct on capitol grounds, civil disorder, and assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers while engaged in the performance of official duties.”
Here’s what you need to know:
The Fire Extinguisher Struck Three Officers in the Head, Authorities Say
According to the DOJ release, authorities allege that Sanford struck three U.S. Capitol Police officers with a fire extinguisher. “A video, recorded by an individual who was present in the crowd, captures when a man throws what appears to be a fire extinguisher at a group of USCP officers protecting the lower west terrace of the Capitol,” the complaint says.
“The fire extinguisher struck one officer, who was wearing a helmet, in the head; then, the fire extinguisher ricochets striking a second officer, who was not wearing a helmet, in the head; and ricochets a third time and strikes a third officer, wearing a helmet, in the head,” the complaint alleges. “After throwing the fire extinguisher at USCP, Sanford leaves the area in the opposite direction. Federal authorities were able to identify Sanford, after receiving a tip on January 12.”
The complaint says officers reviewed video footage captured on January 6, 2021.
“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 complaint says.
“A United States Capitol Police (USCP) Special Agent identified the area shown in Video #1 as being the Lower West Terrace of the United States Capitol.In the lower left corner of the video, an individual, hereinafter ‘Subject,’ is visible stepping over a short wall with a red object in their hands. The Subject is wearing what appears to be a stocking cap, a dark jacket or shirt with a plaid pattern, and a light and dark two-tone backpack.”
The Complaint Alleges That Sanford Hurled the Fire Extinguisher at the Group of Police Officers
According to the complaint, immediately after stepping over the short wall, authorities believe Sanford “draws the red object, which appears to be a fire extinguisher, back in his right hand and then hurls the object at the group of police officers.”
Officer William Young of the USCP “reports that he and twenty officers and two sergeants were deployed to the Lower West Terrace of the U.S. Capitol at some point after 1200 hrs. on January 6, 2021. While Officer Young was on duty and attempting to control the crowd, he felt a hard strike to the back of his helmet,” says the complaint.
“When he turned to see where the blow had originated, Officer Young saw a fire extinguisher on the ground but could not determine who had struck him. Officer Young was subsequently evaluated at a hospital and cleared to return to duty.”
A Friend Claims Sanford Told Him he ‘Followed the President’s Instructions’ to Go to the Capitol
Other video frames contained photos of the man who authorities believe tossed the fire extinguisher.
A tipster contacted the FBI and said that a friend named Robert Sanford, 55, had “confessed…that he was the person that the FBI was looking for.”
According to the complaint, Sanford told his friend that he had traveled to Washington, D.C. on a bus with a group of people. “The group had gone to the White House and listened to President Donald J. Trump’s speech and then had followed the President’s instructions and gone to the Capitol,” says the complaint.
The complainant indicated that Sanford “claimed to have been on the Capitol grounds for about 10 minutes before ‘they’ left. Sanford did not mention to the complainant having thrown any objects, and Sanford did not elaborate to the complainant about who ‘they’ were.” But he admitted to his friend that he was the man in the CFD hat, the complaint says.
Voter registration records in Pennsylvania list “non-partisan” for his party. He doesn’t have any obvious social media accounts.
Sanford Was a Firefighter for More Than Two Decades
According to the Morning Call, Sanford served as a firefighter in Chester for 26 years. He has three children.
Attorney Enrique Latoison, Sanford’s lawyer, told the court: “He’s not involved in any white supremacist organization whatsoever and he doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” He said Sanford turned himself in.
However, authorities maintained that Sanford is a danger to democracy, Morning Call reported. “He’s not charged with simply taking a free bus ride to DC,” the judge said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The head of the Chester firefighters’ union told the newspaper the group condemns violence. The officers did not suffer serious injury.
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