WASHINGTON, DC The man who struck down three U.S. Capitol Police officers with a fire extinguisher during last week's storming of the Capitol has been identified as a retired Pennsylvania firefighter.
The man, Robert Sanford, 55, of Boothyn, Pennsylvania was arrested on Thursday after being charged a day earlier.
Federal prosecutors say that during the events at the U.S. Capitol, 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 a man throwing what appears to be a fire extinguisher at a group of Capitol Police officers who were defending the lower west terrace of the Capitol.
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. After throwing the fire extinguisher, Sanford leaves the area in the opposite direction. Federal authorities say they were able to identify Sanford, after receiving a tip on January 12.
In a court filing, prosecutors cite a video captured by an individual who was present in the crowd during the attack. 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. A United States Capitol Police Special Agent identified the area as being the Lower West Terrace of the United States Capitol.
In the lower-left corner of the video, an individual is visible stepping over a short wall with a red object in his hands. He 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. Immediately after stepping over the short wall, the man 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.
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. Immediately after throwing the object, the man moves quickly in the opposite direction.
Officer William Young of the U.S. Capitol Police said that he and twenty officers and 2 sergeants were deployed to the Lower West Terrace of the U.S. Capitol at some point on January 6, 2021. While Officer Young was on duty and attempting to control the crowd, he said he felt a hard strike to the back of his helmet. 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. He was subsequently evaluated at a hospital and cleared to return to duty.
On January 12, 2021, the FBI received a tip that the person in the video was Sanford. Sanford had recently retired from the Chester Fire Department, located in Chester, Pennsylvania. The filing said the man who provided the tip had been told by Sanford, who was a friend, that Sanford had travelled to Washington, DC 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. The complainant indicated that Sanford had claimed to have been on the Capitol grounds for about 10 minutes before "they" left.
The case involving Sanford is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia and the Counterterrorism Section of the DOJ's National Security Division, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The cases are being investigated by the FBI's Washington Field Office and the United States Capitol Police.
(Photo credit: YouTube screenshot).