April 17, 2021

A former firefighter charged in the Capitol riot took a bus organized by Turning Point USA to DC, filing says

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  • A man charged in the Capitol riot said he took a bus organized by Turning Point USA to DC.
  • Robert Sanford, 55, said he rode the bus with 50 other people. 
  • Turning Point USA is a conservative organization geared towards young people. 
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A retired firefighter charged with assaulting Capitol police officers during the January 6 riot arrived in Washington DC by way of a bus organized by Turning Point USA, a recent court filing said. 

Robert Sanford, 55, was arrested on January 14 in Pennsylvania for allegedly throwing a fire extinguisher at Capitol police.

He spent 26 years with the Chester Fire Department in Chester, Pennsylvania before retiring last month. 

A number of charges have been filed against Sanford, including assaulting officers using a dangerous weapon.

According to the motion to reconsider detention filed by his lawyers last week, Sanford said he rode the Turning Point-sponsored bus with about 50 other people. 

Turning Point USA is a conservative organization geared toward young people, mainly those in college. The group says its mission is “to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government.” 

A few days prior to the riot, TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk, in a now-deleted tweet, advertised that affiliate organization Turning Point Action would be sending more than 80 buses filled with Trump supporters to DC to “fight for the president.” Advertisements also said the group would be offering free hotel rooms. 

“The historic event will likely be one of the largest and most consequential in American history,” Kirk wrote. “The team at @TrumpStudents & Turning Point Action are honored to help make this happen, sending 80+ buses full of patriots to DC to fight for this president.” 

Andrew Kolvet, a spokesperson for TPUSA, told Insider that the TPUSA “did not organize any buses and was not involved in any events of Jan 6 in any way.”

Kolvet added that a group called Students for Trump, a special project of Turning Point Action, an affiliate group, organized seven buses that transported approximately 350 students to attend Trump’s rally speech but left right after. 

“There is no record of the gentlemen you referenced on any of the buses TPA/SFT organized. I looked up the court filing you’re referencing and Mr. Sanford seems to be from Pennsylvania. We don’t know everyone who was organizing buses, but there were a lot of Tea Party groups organizing buses from there,” he said of Sanford’s account. 

Sanford previously said he had followed former President Donald Trump’s “instructions and gone to the Capitol.” 

Trump was impeached in the House over a charge that he incited the insurrection by telling a crowd to “fight like hell” right before his supporters breached the US Capitol and clashed with law enforcement. The riot resulted in the deaths of five people, including a police officer.  

Earlier this month, the Senate acquitted Trump

In the filing, lawyers argued that while “video clearly shows him throwing a fire extinguisher, that had the weight of being empty, into a crowd of police officers, striking three,” that Sanford should be released from pre-trial detention because he “does not pose a danger to the community.” 

Citing Sanford’s 26 years as a firefighter, lawyers claim that he also brought first aid supplies to the Capitol because, as a former firefighter, he always had them on hand. Additionally, they said he didn’t attempt to enter the Capitol Building and that he wasn’t associated with any extremist group. 

“He did not travel to the Capitol with an extremist group. He did not bring a weapon or wear tactical gear,” the filing said. 

A local Pennsylvania CBS affiliate, KYW-TV, reported that a judge released Sanford from jail and placed him on house arrest on Monday.

So far, more than 310 people have been charged in the Capitol insurrection. 

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at salarshani@insider.com