A recently retired Pennsylvania firefighter accused of throwing a fire extinguisher at a police officer, a man photographed carrying a Confederate flag, and a Californian accused of breaking a window of the building were all arrested Thursday in last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Robert Lee Sanford, Jr., 55, of Chester, Penn., was charged with impeding officers, civil disorder, trespassing and violent conduct with a dangerous weapon on the restricted grounds of the Capitol, charges that carry a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Kevin Seefried, who was photographed carrying a Confederate flag inside the Capitol, turned himself in to authorities in Wilmington, Del., on Thursday morning, according to an FBI spokeswoman, Joy Jiras. He and his son, Hunter Seefried, are charged with misdemeanor counts of trespassing and disorderly conduct; Hunter Seefried is also accused of destruction of property.
Hunter Ehmke, of California, has been charged with being one of the first to try to break into the U.S. Capitol during last week’s riot, according to court documents
The extinguisher incident was captured in two widely distributed videos of the scene outside the U.S. Capitol at the Lower West Terrace. U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick, who died as a result of injuries sustained in the riot, was hurt in a separate incident.
In charging papers, the FBI said a tipster in Pennsylvania called Tuesday saying that Sanford, a friend of many years, “had confessed to the complainant that he was the person that the FBI was looking for” in connection with videos showing a man apparently wearing a stocking cap, dark jacket, plaid shirt and backpack hurling an object at a group officers.
A Capitol Police officer was struck in the helmet by what he later saw was a fire extinguisher, the FBI said. The officer was evaluated at a hospital and cleared to return to duty. The device also ricocheted off two others, the FBI said in a charging affidavit.
The tipster said Sanford told them he traveled on a bus with a group to Washington, listened to President Trump’s speech, “and then had followed the President’s instructions and gone to the Capitol,” according to the FBI.
Sanford said the group he was with left the Capitol grounds after about 10 minutes, and did not mention having thrown anything, but acknowledged he was the man wearing a hat with the initials CFD, the tipster said, according to FBI Agent Samad D. Shahrani.
Sanford recently retired from the Chester Fire Department, the agent said, and the complainant identified him in video to the FBI.
The FBI said it had also received an anonymous tip identifying another person as the thrower, but that Illinois resident did not appear on flight manifests to the Washington area nor was the license plate of his vehicle entered into D.C. logs at the time.
“I’m just stunned,” said retired Chester Fire Department battalion chief Charles E. Hopkins Jr. “That’s totally out of character for him.” He described Sanford as a “quiet guy” who “never messed with anyone … he did his job and went home.” He added, “If you weren’t working with him you wouldn’t know he was there.”
In a statement, Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland said Sanford joined the department in 1994, retired last February and is not a current employee.
“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,” Kirkland added. “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.”
Kevin and Hunter Seefried were identified as among the first group to break into the Capitol after a colleague called the FBI to report that the younger man had bragged about being at the riot with his father, according to court records. In an interview, authorities say Kevin Seefried acknowledged being the man photographed with the Confederate flag, which normally hangs outside his Delaware home.
The men entered the Senate Building through a broken window at about 2:13 p.m., with a helmeted group captured in a widely shared video, FBI Special Agent Katherine Pattillo said in an affidavit.
According to court records, Kevin Seefried said both men came to hear Trump’s speech, and then marched to the Capitol led by a person with a bull horn. He also confirmed that because his son was wearing gloves, Hunter Seefried was asked by a stranger to punch out glass from a Capitol complex window after others broke it with a 2×4 wooden plank, giving rioters entry, the FBI said.
The affidavit from Capitol Police Special Agent James Soltes in Ehmke’s case gives some picture of the chaos officers confronted. An Officer Fluke, while part of a line struggling to hold back the mob on the Capitol’s east side at about 2:15 p.m., told Soltes that he saw Ehmke on the ledge gesturing for others to join him.
“They’re going to break the window” Fluke shouted. He then left the line and ran toward Ehmke, according to the affidavit. He used his riot shield to push Ehmke off the ledge, he says, causing them both to fall in broken glass. About 10 officers made a new line at the window to keep a small crowd from getting through. Ehmke was handcuffed.
But the crowd “began to show aggression” and threatened officers, saying, “You’re not leaving with him,” Soltes writes. The offers tried to radio for instructions but “could not be clearly heard or unable to be broadcast due to the many other calls of service by USCP officers.” So they let Ehmke leave, after photographing him and the window and seizing his driver’s license and advising him they would seek a warrant for his arrest.
The Justice Department and the FBI have carried out a nationwide manhunt in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach by Trump supporters, during which a woman was fatally shot by police and an officer died after he was injured.
Prosecutors have called the investigation one of the largest ever undertaken by the FBI, and it has led to charges against more than 70 people and the identification of 170 suspects to date.
Also Thursday, a New York man who authorities say drove to the Washington area from that state to take part in the protest was denied bail for the second time by Arlington Circuit Court.
Moses Geri, 38, of Weedsport, N.Y., was arrested Jan. 1 after allegedly getting in a drunken argument with other guests at his Rosslyn hotel and then firing a gun outside. He had more than 800 rounds of ammunition, including white phosphorous and armor-piercing bullets, according to prosecutors.
Also charged with misdemeanor trespassing and disorderly conduct were Christine Marie Priola of Willoughby, Ohio, who the U.S. Marshals Service alleged was the person photographed wearing a red jacket and blue “MAGA” pants and holding a sign reading “The Children Cry Out for Justice,” and apparently photographing a rioter occupying Vice President Pence’s chair on the Senate dais; and Pete Harding of Buffalo, who was photographed allegedly attempting to set news media equipment on fire and taking credit in a video for joining the Capitol mob, which he said was organized by “Marching Patriots.”