Government charges Alabama man in connection with Molotov cocktails found amid assault on Capitol

Crystal Hill
·Reporter
·3 min read

Around the time the Electoral College count erupted into chaos at the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday, law enforcement responding to two bomb threats nearby found 11 Molotov cocktails inside an Alabama man’s pickup truck, a federal criminal complaint alleges.

Lonnie Coffman, of Falkville, Ala., was charged Thursday with possession of an unregistered firearm, a reference to the Molotov cocktails, and carrying a pistol without a license, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday. He’s among 13 people who face federal charges in connection with a riot Wednesday afternoon that left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer. Another 40 people face charges in Washington, D.C., superior court in connection with events that day.

Hundreds of pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol building shortly after Congress began counting the Electoral College votes, forcing U.S. legislators to flee the building. The mob smashed windows, climbed the building walls, stole documents from office buildings and battled Capitol police officers.

The threat wasn’t just inside the Capitol. Photos in a government document obtained by Yahoo News shows the cooler filled with 11 mason jars that were found near the Capitol and determined to be improvised incendiary devices, commonly referred to as Molotov cocktails.

Molotov cocktails
Officials allege that Capitol Police found 11 Molotov cocktails in an Alabama resident's pickup truck during the riot on Wednesday. (Screenshot of National Explosives Task Force document)

The mason jars were found as of part of a search of a suspicious vehicle. The bomb squad found one black handgun, an assault rifle and rifle magazines loaded with ammunition and the 11 mason jars filled with unknown liquid, along with cloth rags and lighters — all items consistent with the explosive device, authorities said.

Capitol Police had responded to two separate reports of a possible explosive device near the Capitol Club and Republican National Committee and at the Democratic National Committee headquarters just before 1 p.m., about a half-hour before the Capitol was breached, according to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint against Coffman.

As part of their response, Capitol Police performed an investigative sweep of the area, during which two officers saw a firearm in a red pickup truck with Alabama license plates. The vehicle registration revealed that Coffman was the owner, the affidavit said.

Capitol police officers in riot gear push back demonstrators who try to break a door of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP/Jose Luis Magana)
Capitol police officers in riot gear push back demonstrators who try to break a door of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP/Jose Luis Magana)

Officers later encountered Coffman around 6:30 p.m., when he was trying to get into his vehicle, the affidavit said. Coffman was detained at the scene.

During an interview with investigators, Coffman allegedly said that the mason jars contained “melted styrofoam and gasoline,” the affidavit said. An officer with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives noted that the substances are “an explosive mixture that has the effect of napalm, insofar as it causes the flammable liquid to better stick to objects that it hits upon detonation,” the affidavit said.

The document shows that local and federal law enforcement responding to the earlier bomb threats found two suspected pipe bombs — one at the Republican National Committee headquarters and another at the Democratic National Committee headquarters.

Police do not believe the explosives found near the RNC and DNC buildings belonged to Coffman.

Jana Winter contributed reporting to this story.

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