A Pennsylvania man accused of hurling a fire extinguisher at a group of police officers during last week’s Capitol riot has been arrested, authorities said.
Robert Sanford, 55, a retired firefighter from the Chester Fire Department, has been charged with four federal counts, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia in Washington said.
The fire extinguisher struck an officer who was wearing a helmet in the head, then ricocheted and hit two other officers, one of whom was not wearing a helmet, in the head, prosecutors said.
The charges against Sanford are not related to the death of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. The Associated Press and The New York Times have reported that Sicknick was struck by a fire extinguisher.
Sanford got caught up in the moment and made a “split-second decision” that he deeply regrets, his attorney, Enrique Latoison, said Thursday. “Everyone was in a mob mentality,” he said.
Latoison said Sanford did not enter the Capitol. He said that the thrown fire extinguisher was empty and that the officers who were struck reported no injuries.
Sanford went to Washington to attend President Donald Trump’s rally and had no intention of rioting, he said.
“Trump says, ‘we’re going to the Capitol.’ Next thing you know, thousands of people are walking,” Latoison said. “When he got down there, things got crazy.”
Sanford was ordered held without bail. He turned himself in to the FBI on Thursday morning as requested by authorities, his attorney said.
Sanford was allegedly captured on video throwing an extinguisher at a group of officers after a mob overwhelmed police and broke through barricades. The video allegedly shows him pick up the object from a low terrace and hurl it as the officers are backed against the wall.
An FBI affidavit in the case says that a Capitol Police officer “felt a hard strike” to the back of his helmet as he was attempting to control the crowd and saw the extinguisher on the ground. The officer was evaluated and cleared to return to duty.
The riot occurred after Trump encouraged people at the rally to walk to the Capitol on the day Congress was officially counting the electoral votes affirming President-elect Joe Biden’s win.
The president has been accused of inciting the riot, both with the language at that rally and with his repeated and baseless claims that the election was fraudulent or stolen. Trump had also suggested that Vice President Mike Pence could overturn Biden’s victory, which Pence had no power to do.
Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on Wednesday for “incitement of insurrection.” It is the only time in the nation’s history that a president has been impeached twice.
Authorities have said that five people died in the riot, including Sicknick and a woman who was shot by a Capitol police official inside the building. Three others died of what have been described as medical emergencies.
People have been arrested from all over the county following Wednesday’s events in Washington, D.C.