Several said they came to Washington to rally with President Trump and then “went crazy” when Vice President Pence announced that he would not agree to block the certification of Trump’s defeat.
One officer explained that he had to free a man who had broken a window because the belligerent protesters outnumbered police on the scene.
One of the men arrested Thursday, Peter Francis Stager, 41, of Conway, Ark., is accused of using an American flag to beat a D.C. police officer who arrived late in the afternoon to support Capitol Police. Video from the scene shows the officer being dragged down the steps as he is attacked by the crowd.
According to an affidavit, Stager was identified by two informants who saw video of him at the Capitol — including one clip in which he declared, “Everybody in there is a treasonous traitor. Death is the only remedy for what’s in that building.”
He told one informant that he did not realize the man he attacked was a police officer and instead believed him to be “antifa,” or an anti-fascist activist.
The agent who wrote the affidavit said after watching videos of the attack that Stager “was able to clearly see the police markings on B.M.’s uniform and was aware that the individual who he was striking was, in fact, law enforcement.”
Another of the men arrested Thursday is himself a former public safety official. Robert Lee Sanford Jr., 55, a recently retired firefighter from Chester, Pa., threw a fire extinguisher at members of the Capitol Police, according to law enforcement.
The extinguisher incident connected to Sanford was captured in two widely distributed videos of the scene outside the U.S. Capitol at the Lower West Terrace. Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick, who died as a result of injuries sustained in the riot, was hurt in a separate incident.
A tipster in Pennsylvania told the FBI on Tuesday that Sanford, a friend of many years, confessed “he was the person that the FBI was looking for” in connection with videos showing a man apparently hurling an object at a group of officers, according to court documents.
A Capitol Police officer was struck in the helmet by a fire extinguisher, 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 that he traveled on a bus with a group to Washington, listened to Trump’s speech, “and then had followed the President’s instructions and gone to the Capitol,” according to FBI Agent Samad D. Shahrani.
Sanford recently retired from the Chester Fire Department, the agent said, and acknowledged that he was photographed wearing a hat bearing “CFD.”
“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.”
A father and son, Kevin and Hunter Seefried of Laurel, Del., turned themselves into law enforcement Thursday after likewise being identified by informants — in this case, a colleague of the younger man. Authorities say Kevin Seefried admitted carrying a large Confederate flag to the Capitol, saying he usually keeps it outside his home in the first state to join the Union.
Hunter Seefried is accused of helping clear a broken Senate building window through which a helmeted group climbed into the Capitol about 2:13 p.m., making them among the first to enter the building.
Hunter Ehmke of California was breaking another window on the building’s east side just minutes later, according to law enforcement. An affidavit said that a Capitol Police officer managed to knock Ehmke off a ledge and handcuff him. But as hundreds of rioters fought their way toward the building, he and another officer could not keep Ehmke detained.
The crowd “began to show aggression” and threatened officers, saying, “You’re not leaving with him,” according to court papers. The officers 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.
Within an hour, Capitol Police shot and killed a woman, 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt, who attempted to climb into a hallway near the House floor.
Others who made it into the Senate chamber were charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct, including Joshua Matthew Black of Leeds, Ala., Christine Marie Priola of Willoughby, Ohio, and Pete Harding of Buffalo.
In a YouTube video, according to the FBI, Black explained, “Once we found out Pence turned on us and that they had stolen the election, like officially, the crowd went crazy. I mean, it became a mob. We crossed the gate.” Black allegedly added, “We just wanted to get inside the building. I wanted to get inside the building so I could plead the blood of Jesus over it. That was my goal.”
Priola, a former school therapist, was identified as a woman photographed in the Senate chamber holding a sign that read, “The Children Cry Out For Justice,” according to court documents. Harding was named by authorities as a man who allegedly attempted to set news media equipment on fire; court records quote a video in which he says: “That was a symbolic gesture. Nothing burned. It was metal.”
The Justice Department and the FBI have arrested more than 100 people since 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.
In Washington, a U.S. magistrate on Thursday ordered a North Carolina man jailed pending trial for allegedly communicating threats about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), saying his text messages are “numerous, they are graphic, and have a concerning level of intensity.”
The judge rejected claims by the lawyer for Cleveland Grover Meredith Jr., 53, that the messages were written to friends in jest, observing that he traveled cross-country from Colorado with an assault rifle, 9-millimeter pistol painted like an American flag and about 2,500 rounds of ammunition for the march.
“I don’t think we have room for error when it comes to you,” the judge said.
A federal judge also ordered held Lonnie Leroy Coffman, 71, of Alabama, charged with bringing 11 molotov cocktails, five loaded weapons and ammunition to the Capitol.
Separately, an Arlington Circuit Court judge denied bail a second time to Moses Geri, 38, of Weedsport, N.Y. Geri 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.
Attorneys for defendants whose cases were not docketed in court could not immediately be identified.