Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Contact 90.5 WESA with a story idea or news tip:

Retired Delco Firefighter Charged With Assault For Hurling Fire Extinguisher At Capitol Police

Manuel Balce Ceneta
Pro-Trump insurrectionists clash with Capitol Police officers outside the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington.

A Delaware County man linked to the white supremacist Proud Boys has been charged with assaulting three Capitol Police officers with a fire extinguisher during last week’s violent riots at the U.S. Capitol.

Robert L. Sanford, a 55-year-old Upper Chichester resident and retired Chester firefighter, was allegedly caught on video hurling a fire extinguisher at a group of officers. He was taken into custody by FBI agents early Thursday morning and now faces a battery of charges, including assaulting police officers, disorderly conduct, and knowingly entering a restricted area.

The FBI’s Hi-Tech Organized Crime Unit and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington D.C. is now in the midst of investigating and prosecuting insurrectionists nationally after Capitol Police allowed many to leave the scene last week. Sanford’s alleged crime appears to be separate from a different high-profile fire extinguisher incident in which Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick was struck and killed as the pro-Trump mob overtook the Capitol.

At an initial hearing in Philadelphia, Judge Henry Perkin granted a request from federal officials to hold Sanford in detention and transfer him to Washington D.C to face charges in that jurisdiction.

“A video … has Mr. Sanford poised to strike a Capitol Police officer with a fire extinguisher. He is in the crowd that breached the perimeter of the Capitol,” Perkin said. “That clearly is a danger to the community. It was a danger to our Capitol, it was a danger to our democracy, to our legislature.”

The alleged assault came as rioters breached a line of Capitol officers and surged toward the Capitol building, where lawmakers were inside debating certification of the 2020 election.

federal memo indicates that an anonymous tipster told federal authorities that Sanford had taken a free bus ride with a larger group to the Capitol to attend President Donald Trump’s “Save America” rally — although it was not immediately clear which group had organized the trip.

A widely circulated YouTube video captured Sanford allegedly throwing an extinguisher at a group of officers while another still image of a man at the rally with a hat emblazoned “CFD” — the initials of the Chester Fire Department. The memo indicates that the tipster, described as a longtime friend of the former firefighter, confirmed his identity in both pieces of media.

Capitol Police Officer William Young said he was struck in the back of the head with the fire extinguisher, which ricocheted off his helmet and struck two other officers. Young was evaluated for injuries and has since returned to active duty.

Although Sanford’s defense attorney Enrique Latoison stated that his client was “not a member of any extremist groups,” federal prosecutors indicated that a search warrant executed at Sanford’s home had uncovered a T-shirt associated with the Proud Boys.

Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland acknowledged that Sanford had served in that city’s fire department from 1994 until February of 2020. He offered condolences to the family and friends of those wounded during the riot.

“While Robert Sanford adorned a hat with a Fire Department logo, he is not a current employee of the city of Chester,” he said. “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.”

Read more from our partners, WHYY.