Retired Pa. firefighter admits attacking cops with fire extinguisher during Jan. 6 riot

Robert Sanford left the Chester Fire Department a month after the Capitol attack


Jeremy Roebuck
The Philadelphia Inquirer

DELAWARE COUNTY, Pa. — A retired Delaware County firefighter has admitted to attacking police with a fire extinguisher during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in Washington.

Robert Sanford, a 26-year veteran of the Chester Fire Department who left the force a month after the attack, pleaded guilty Friday to one count of assaulting officers during a court hearing in Washington.

His plea makes him the 38th Pennsylvania resident convicted and the 11th from the state to admit to felony crimes in connection with the attack that caused millions of dollars in damage, injured scores of officers, and threatened the peaceful transition of power. Roughly 75 Pennsylvanians have been charged to date.

U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedrich revoked Sanford's bail because of his guilty plea. The retired firefighter will remain incarcerated until a sentencing hearing is scheduled for January. He could face more than three years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

Defense attorney Andrew M. Stewart did not immediately return requests for comment on Monday.

Previously, he had argued his client hadn't traveled to Washington that day intent upon causing trouble but merely had accepted a free bus ride to show his support for former President Donald Trump.

"Mr. Sanford has repeatedly expressed contrition ... for his actions on January 6th and is adamant that he has no interest in protest or politics going forward," Stewart wrote in a court filing last year.

According to the charging documents in his case, Sanford, 57, of Boothwyn, was turned in six days after the riot by a close friend who had seen a photo of Sanford — with a grizzled gray goatee and knit cap bearing the initials "CFD" — circulating on social media.

Up until that point, investigators had been pursuing tips the initials on the cap stood for the Chicago Fire Department and had been investigating another firefighter in that city that amateur social media sleuths had incorrectly identified as the man in the photo.

The image had been extracted from a video that showed Sanford hurling a fire extinguisher at the helmeted head of an officer who was struggling to restrain rioters on the Capitol's west side. It ricocheted off the helmet, struck one of his colleagues, bounced again and hit a third officer.

He also threw a traffic cone in the direction of the police while screaming that they were "traitors" before he eventually ran away.

None of the officers were seriously injured.

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(c)2022 The Philadelphia Inquirer

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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