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

Sanford was captured on video hurling what appears to be a fire extinguisher at police. PHOTO: TWITTER

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A federal judge on Thursday (Jan 14) 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 US 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.

"The object appears to strike one officer, who was wearing a helmet, in the head. The object then ricochets and strikes another officer, who was not wearing a helmet, in the head. The object then ricochets a third time and strikes a third officer, wearing a helmet, in the head," the documents say.

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 70 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 US 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.

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.

The officer "lost grip of the shield and fell" into shards of glass, the documents say. Police managed to detain Ehmke but the crowd started to become aggressive and threatened police not to take Ehmke away, investigators said in court papers.

"Due to the growing aggression of the large crowd that far outnumbered the officers and the exigent circumstances at the time, officers made the decision to allow Ehmke depart under his own power," they said.

Ehmke was due to be in court in the Central District of California at 1pm PST (5am on Friday, Singapore time).

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 he led a crowd that was encroaching up a stairwell.

Jensen approached in a "menacing manner, with the crowd following behind him, forcing the officer to continue to retreat," the documents say.

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 say.

Also on Thursday, the Justice Department confirmed the arrest of Kevin Seefried and his son Hunter Seefried from Delaware. Hunter Seefried was seen on video punching out a glass window in the Capitol complex, while Kevin was photographed inside the Capitol carrying a Confederate flag.

The flag is widely seen as a racist symbol since it celebrates the forces of the Confederacy who fought to preserve slavery in the American Civil War.

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