Retired firefighter from Chester, Pa. accused of throwing fire extinguisher at police officers during Capitol riot

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Thursday, January 14, 2021
Retired Pa. firefighter threw fire extinguisher at cops during riot: FBI
Robert Sanford, a retired firefighter from Pennsylvania, has been arrested, accused of being the man seen on video throwing a fire extinguisher that hit three police officers at th

CHESTER, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A retired firefighter from Chester, Pennsylvania is accused of being the man seen on video throwing a fire extinguisher that hit three police officers at the Capitol during the riot in Washington, D.C. last week.

Robert Sanford, 55, was arrested Thursday morning on four federal charges, including knowingly entering a restricted building, disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, civil disorder and assaulting officers engaging in their official duties.

According to the charging documents, the extinguisher bounced off the heads of three officers, two of whom wore helmets.

Sanford, 55, traveled by bus with other people to the Capitol, according to documents. He told a friend when he returned home that he had been on the grounds for 10 minutes before leaving but did not mention throwing anything at officers, authorities said.

Sanford was identified after a longtime friend of his contacted the FBI in Pennsylvania and said they recognized Sanford from photos put out by the FBI.

The fire extinguisher struck several police officers during the US Capitol riot.

The friend said Sanford "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."

Sanford appeared in a federal court in Pennsylvania for an initial appearance on Thursday afternoon. He was denied release and will remain in custody of the U.S. Marshals until he is transferred to Washington, D.C.

The defense argued Sanford was not a flight risk or a danger to the community, noting that he has no prior arrests, is married, and has three children.

The defense added that allegations that he traveled to D.C. to commit crimes are inaccurate and he is not part of any extremist groups.

Prosecutors challenged that claim, saying authorities found a t-shirt associated with the far-right group Proud Boys at Sanford's home after executing a search warrant.

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Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland said that while Sanford wore a hat with the fire department's logo, he is not a current employee of the city of Chester.

Sanford was a member of the Chester Fire Department from January 1994 until February 2020.

The assault on the video is separate from the ongoing investigation into the death of Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick, who was reportedly struck in the head with a fire extinguisher during the riot.

U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021, of injuries sustained during the riot at the Capitol.


The U.S Capitol is locked down just days before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

The FBI has warned that armed protests by violent Trump supporters were being planned in all 50 state capitals as well as in Washington leading up to the inauguration.

Two blocks from the White House, a group of uniformed National Guard troops emerged from a tour bus and headed into a hotel as a state of lockdown descended on Washington that will last through Jan. 20.

"Clearly we are in uncharted waters," said Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser.

"Unfortunately, we can now add Jan. 6, 2021 to that very short list of dates in American history that will live forever in infamy," said Sen. Chuck Schumer. See how things escalated in our minute-by-minute video as chaos erupted.

Last week's "violent insurrection" at the Capitol by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump has "impacted the way we are approaching working with our federal partners in planning for the 59th inauguration," Bowser said Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Airbnb announced it was cancelling all reservations in the Washington metro area. Bowser said she had been in regular contact with Airbnb officials since last week, but did not specifically request this step.

On the ground, much of the most visible security will come in the form of more than 15,000 National Guardsmen from multiple states, some of them armed.

According to officials, the number of Guardsmen who will actually be carrying guns will be limited. Some Guard members nearer the Capitol will have long guns, and others will have their sidearms.

It is likely that those closer to the crowds or on fence lines won't be armed, but those up closer to the building may be. National Guard members operate under strict rules of engagement on the use of force. But generally speaking, troops can use lethal force to protect the lives of others and themselves.

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Derick Waller reports on the impeachment from Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Officials also said that while 15,000 Guard members have been activated, more may be called. D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee estimated Wednesday that more than 20,000 National Guardsmen would be active in the District of Columbia on Inauguration Day.

Officials are continuing to review requests from law enforcement, and some believe several thousand more could be brought in. Defense and military officials have been calling governors and adjutants general to ask if they might have people they could send, if requested.

So far, officials said state leaders have said that protecting their own capitols will be their top priority, but they still have some Guard members they will be able to send, if needed.