Judge orders detention of man accused of hurling fire extinguisher at Capitol Police

Sarah N. Lynch

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday ordered a retired firefighter in Pennsylvania to be detained pending trial, after prosecutors filed charges alleging he hurled a fire extinguisher at police during last week's mob attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Magistrate Judge Henry Perkin for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said the alleged actions of Robert Sanford, 55, of Chester, Pennsylvania, posed a "danger to the community" as well as to "democracy and our legislators."

According to court documents, Sanford was captured on video hurling what appears to be a fire extinguisher at police. In sworn statements, investigators said the object ricocheted multiple times and struck three officers, one of whom was not wearing a helmet.

Prosecutors said in court on Thursday that a search warrant executed at Sanford's home uncovered paraphernalia referencing the far-right Proud Boys group. Sanford's lawyer told the judge his client is not a member of any extremist group and has no criminal history.

The Justice Department has brought more than 80 criminal cases so far since supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, trying to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden as the winner of the U.S. presidential election.

The violence, which left five dead including a Capitol Police officer, led to the impeachment of Trump on Wednesday by the House of Representatives on a charge of inciting an insurrection.

Shortly before the attack, Trump had fired up a crowd of supporters, repeating his baseless claims that he won the election and urging them to go to the Capitol.

FBI Director Chris Wray said on Thursday that the FBI has arrested more than 100 people and has identified more than 200 suspects.

Many of the people arrested so far were captured on social media bragging about taking part in the assault, and the FBI has been combing through more than 100,000 videos and photographs.

After the violence was quelled, most of the rioters were allowed to leave the Capitol, meaning law enforcement has had to track them down in the days since.

One such person was Hunter Ehmke, charged by the Justice Department on Thursday with damaging government property, obstructing an official proceeding and violent entry.

According to court documents, a Capitol Police officer witnessed Ehmke smash a window at the Capitol and rushed at him with his shield to try to stop him.

Police managed to detain Ehmke but the crowd started to become aggressive and demanded police not to take Ehmke away, investigators said in court papers.

CONSPIRACY THEORIST

Another person who has since been indicted is Douglas Austen Jensen of Iowa, whom federal agents describe in court records as a supporter of the QAnon far-right conspiracy theory.

Jensen, according to the charging documents, is the man who was captured on video by the Guardian newspaper taunting a lone Black Capitol Police officer as Jensen led a crowd that was encroaching up a stairwell.

Jensen later turned himself in to the Des Moines Police Department. He admitted being the person in the video, saying he "intentionally positioned himself to be among the first people inside the United States Capitol because he was wearing his 'Q' T-shirt and he wanted to have his T-shirt seen on video so that 'Q' could 'get the credit'" the documents said.

Others charges were filed on Thursday against Kevin Seefried, who was seen carrying a Confederate flag in the Capitol and his son Hunter, as well as Utah-based John Sullivan, who allegedly stormed the Capitol clad in a gas mask and ballistic vest and filmed the shooting of a woman by Capitol Police.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by Jan Wolfe, Brad Heath, Andrea Shalal and Eric Beech in Washington; Additional reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Frances Kerry, Bill Berkrot)