Capitol riot suspect who brought Molotov cocktails to D.C. pleads guilty

A Capitol riot suspect from Alabama — who drove to Washington in a truck packed with guns, ammunition and 11 Molotov cocktails — pleaded guilty to felony weapons charges Friday.

Lonnie Coffman, 71, was among the most heavily armed suspects arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. He was charged in a 17-count indictment after police officers happened upon his truck while investigating reports of possible explosive devices nearby.

Coffman pleaded guilty to two counts involving his possession of the Molotov cocktails and a 9 mm handgun. A sentencing date was set for April 1, 2022.

The hearing in Washington was briefly derailed when he disputed that he had Molotov cocktails capable of exploding. He told the judge that the 11 mason jars found in the back of his truck contained gasoline that had been poured inside three years ago and that it had evaporated.

“I don’t think this plea can be accepted,” U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said. “He indicated that these were not destructive devices.”

Coffman’s lawyer asked the judge to meet privately with his client. After a short break, Coffman admitted that he made the devices and that they could have been used as Molotov cocktails. But he said he had no plans of detonating them in Washington. 

“The jars had been in my truck for some time,” he said. “I did not plan on blowing nothing up or nothing like that. I agree that they could have been used for that purpose, but I was not going to use them for that purpose.”

He also pleaded guilty to a federal count brought in Alabama related to 12 additional Molotov cocktails found in his home. The case was transferred to Washington last month. 

Coffman, an Army veteran from the town of Falkville in northern Alabama, was among the first people indicted in the Capitol riot probe. 

Two Capitol Police officers were sweeping the area with police canines when they spotted what appeared to be the handle of a gun on the front passenger seat of his red GMC Sierra pickup truck, federal prosecutors said.

The vehicle was parked in the heart of downtown Washington, just a couple of blocks from the Capitol.

Officers searched the truck and discovered it was equipped for war. Among the weapons found inside the interior and truck bed were: three guns, including an assault-style rifle; hundreds of rounds of ammunition; several machetes; camouflage smoke devices; a stun gun; a crossbow with bolts; and 11 Molotov cocktails in the form of mason jars with gasoline inside and a hole punched at the top.

When Coffman returned to the vehicle, he was also found to have two guns in his possession. 

He had no criminal history or known extremist ties. Law enforcement experts previously told NBC News that he represented the worst nightmare for law enforcement.

“These are the people who keep law enforcement up at night,” said Clint Van Zandt, a former FBI criminal profiler and an NBC News analyst. “I used to go to bed thinking, ‘Did I do everything I could? Have I looked for this? Have I looked for that?’ But what do you look for in a guy like this?”

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