Charges: Ex PA firefighter threw extinguisher at Capitol Police

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Dawn breaks at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is calling for congressional action to rein in President Donald Trump after inciting last week’s deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A retired Pennsylvania firefighter was arrested Thursday on federal charges that he threw a fire extinguisher that hit three Capitol Police officers during the violent siege on the Capitol last week.

Robert Sanford, who retired last March from the Chester Fire Department, was arrested on charges that include assault of a police officer, disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, civil disorder and unlawfully entering the Capitol.

The charges against Sanford are not related to the widely publicized attack on Officer Brian Sicknick, who also was attacked with a fire extinguisher during the siege and died.

Sanford, who surrendered to the FBI early Thursday, was being held in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh County jail, where he had an initial appearance via video Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry S. Perkin, whose courtroom is in Allentown.

Sanford’s lawyer argued that Sanford should be released on bail, citing his lengthy service as a firefighter, his strong family ties and his lack of a criminal record. Sanford did not go to Washington with the intent of rioting, and does not belong to any extremist groups, defense lawyer Enrique Latoison argued.

A federal prosecutor noted that a search of Sanford’s house Thursday turned up T-shirt associated with the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group.

Noting the seriousness of the charges, the judge ordered Sanford to be held without bail, saying he presented a danger to the community.

Authorities said the case will be prosecuted in Washington.

The FBI asked the public this week to help identify a man seen in video stills who wore a hat with the letters CFD, picked up a fire extinguisher and threw it at police outside the Capitol on Jan. 6. 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.

The friend saw the photos released by federal authorities and contacted police.

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