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Recently retired firefighter arrested for throwing fire extinguisher at Capitol Police

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Jeremy Roebuck

The Philadelphia Inquirer

A recently retired firefighter from Delaware County was arrested Thursday morning for lobbing a fire extinguisher that hit three police officers during the insurrectionist riot at the U.S. Capitol last week, federal authorities said.

Image credit: FBI.

Robert Sanford, 55, of Chester, faces federal felony charges including assaulting a police officer. The projectile he is accused of throwing was not the one that killed Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was also struck in the head by a fire extinguisher during the melee and later died from his injuries, authorities said.

Investigators said Sanford was identified from video taken at the scene showing him throwing the fire extinguisher around 2:30 p.m. as the pro-Trump mob breached the Capitol building’s west side.

The footage shows the extinguisher hitting one helmeted officer in the head, ricocheting off it and striking another. It bounces again and then hits a third, as the man that threw it — wearing a hat with the initials “CFD” — flees in the opposite direction.

Retired firefighter Robert Sanford allegedly hurled a fire extinguisher at police during the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.

According to court filings, Sanford recognized himself in the video and confessed to a friend that he was the person the FBI was searching for. He described traveling to Washington by bus Jan. 6 with a group of other people to hear President Donald Trump’s speech at a “Stop the Steal Rally” and then “following the president’s instructions” to march to the Capitol, the documents state.

That friend later turned him in to authorities, identifying him as a retired member of the Chester Fire Department. He told them Sanford claimed to have been on Capitol grounds for about 10 minutes and did not mention throwing any objects, agents said.

A 26-year veteran of the Chester Fire Department, Sanford had retired in February, Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland said in a statement.

“If any person, be it current or former employee or resident, is confirmed to have participated in last week’s event at the Capitol, then we hope our legal system will work according to its purpose and bring them to justice,” Kirkland said.

Edward Reilly Jr., the head of the Chester firefighter’s union, declined to comment but said he would be releasing a statement on Sanford’s arrest later Thursday afternoon.

Sanford is scheduled to make his first appearance in federal court in Philadelphia Thursday afternoon and will later be transferred to Washington, where his case is being prosecuted.

It was not immediately clear whether he had retained an attorney.

This is a developing story. Please check back later for updates.

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