Retired firefighter charged with throwing fire extinguisher at officers during Capitol riots

A retired Pennsylvania firefighter was arrested by federal authorities Thursday for allegedly throwing a fire extinguisher that struck three officers in their heads during last week’s assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Robert Sanford, 55, of Upper Chichester was arrested early Thursday morning, a law enforcement source confirms to CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton. Sanford is charged with assaulting a police officer, Milton reports. He was allegedly caught on camera hurling the fire extinguisher.

Sanford is not suspected in the death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who was among five people who died during the Jan. 6 siege.

In a statement, the city of Chester, Pa. said that though Sanford was seen wearing a “CFD” hat during the riots — an abbreviation for Chester Fire Department — he is no longer employed by the city. The statement said Sanford worked for the Chester Fire Department from 1994 until his retiremenst in February 2020.

“As the First Amendment of our Constitution outlines the right to free speech and to peaceful assembly, the actions of the rioters in D.C. last week hinged on characteristics of domestic terrorism,” the statement read. “As such, 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.”

Federal authorities are investigating more than 170 people — 32 of whom now face federal charges — in the January 6 Capitol assault. Hundreds more charges are expected as federal investigators comb tips, video and social media to identify and arrest suspects across the country. 

Those already charged face a variety of counts including unlawful entry, disorderly conduct, theft, assault and weapons violations. A team of senior federal prosecutors are investigating more serious charges including sedition and conspiracy related to the “most heinous” acts at the Capitol, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin said Tuesday.  

Pat Milton and Clare Hymes contributed reporting.  

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