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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, December 7, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Man with guns and Molotov cocktails nearby as he stormed Capitol pleads guilty

Lonnie Coffman was arrested when he tried to return to the weapon-filled truck he had parked near the Capitol on Jan. 6.

WASHINGTON (CN) — A 71-year-old Army veteran will likely face several years in prison after pleading guilty Friday to leaving a cache of loaded firearms and 11 homemade Molotov cocktails inside a truck parked near the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Police had spotted Lonnie Coffman's red truck in the aftermath of the insurrection, conducting a search of the area following reports of unexploded pipe bombs near the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee headquarters.

In the vehicle, police found several loaded firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, a crossbow with bolts, several machetes, camouflage smoke devices, a stun gun and liquid filled mason jars with lighters and rags — the materials needed to make Molotov cocktails. Coffman was arrested while he was heading back to his truck and has been jailed in the 10 months since.

Facing a 17-count indictment with multiple felonies, the Alabama-based Coffman pleaded guilty Friday to possession of destructive devices — the 11 Molotov cocktails — and carrying a pistol without a license in Washington. He also pleaded guilty to possession of destructive devices for another dozen Molotov cocktails found at his home in Alabama. 

The hearing nearly fell apart, however, after Coffman tried to downplay the significance of the explosive ingredients he admitted to transporting. 

"I didn't plan any action with those things,” Coffman told U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. “They had been in my truck for some time... I didn't plan on blowing nothing up.”

Insisting that he had assembled the jars three to four years ago, Coffman claimed that he couldn’t have made a Molotov cocktail even if he wanted to because the gasoline had long since evaporated.

The backtracking rankled Judge Kollar-Kotelly. "I don't think this plea can be completed," she said, prompting the defense to consult with Coffman in a breakout room.

Upon his return to the courtroom, Coffman admitted that the materials could be a Molotov cocktail, and he believed that they could be used that way on Jan. 6. 

Coffman faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the Molotov cocktails, but his estimated sentencing range is 37 to 46 months, due to his lack of criminal history. For the firearms charge, Coffman faces a maximum of five years in prison, but his estimated sentencing range is six to 24 months. 

Later on Friday, Brain Stenz, from Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to unlawful parading, picketing or demonstrating in a Capitol building. 

Stenz was in the Capitol building for eight minutes, and at one point went inside Senator Jeff Merkley’s office.

Categories / Criminal, National, Politics

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