The most heavily armed man federal authorities charged in the Jan. 6 investigation faces years in prison after pleading guilty Friday to bringing five loaded firearms and 11 molotov cocktails in his truck to Capitol Hill.
Lonnie Leroy Coffman, 71, of Falkville, Ala., admitted to one federal count of possessing an unregistered firearm or destructive device — the molotov cocktails — and one Washington D.C. count of carrying a pistol without a license. He was the first person indicted in the pro-Trump protests that devolved into violence against nearly 140 police officers and forced the evacuation of Congress as it met to confirm the 2020 presidential election results on Jan. 6.
Coffman packed a cooler with Mason jars he filled with gasoline and melted plastic foam to produce a dangerous “napalm-like” explosion of sticky, flammable liquid, he admitted in a two-hour plea hearing in Washington.
In his red GMC Sierra truck, the Army veteran also brought a rifle, shotgun, two 9mm pistols, and a .22-caliber pistol — all loaded — and carried two of the pistols with him as he walked, he admitted.
“Do you agree with those parts you could make a molotov cocktail at the time you were putting them together? … When you got to Washington, D.C., you still knew all those ingredients could be put together to make a molotov cocktail, is that correct?” U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly asked.
“Yes, your honor,” Coffman said.
Coffman denied any intent to use the devices, adding that he believed the three-year-old gasoline in the jars “was not deadly anymore” and may not have exploded.
U.S. prosecutors agreed to drop the rest of a 17-count indictment, all local charges for violating District gun and ammunition laws.
Coffman faces 37 to 46 months in prison under nonbinding federal guidelines at sentencing April 1 in a plea deal. His defense and prosecutors may argue for more or less time, and the government may seek an upper-end sentence claiming that Coffman’s offense qualified for a terrorism enhancement, intending to intimidate or retaliate the government, Kollar-Kotelly said.
In a related Alabama case, Coffman also pleaded guilty before Kollar-Kotelly to a second federal count for making 12 similar improvised explosive devices using Mason jars found at his home, carrying the same advisory sentencing range.
Friday’s hearing shed no further light on why Coffman came to the Capitol on Jan. 6 so heavily armed or whether he acted alone. Kollar-Kotelly hinted she would be interested in learning about his intent at sentencing.
According to charging papers, police spotted weapons in Coffman’s parked truck in the 300 block of First Street SE while searching an area of Capitol Hill that had been sealed off because unexploded pipe bombs had been reported near the headquarters of the Republican and Democratic parties minutes before the mob assault began about 1 p.m.
No arrests related to the pipe bombs have been made. Coffman was arrested while returning to his truck.
In detaining Coffman pending trial early in the case, Kollar-Kotelly cited evidence by federal prosecutors that Coffman had potential plans to coordinate with others and was prepared for political violence.
Coffman approached the Washington home and office of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., weeks earlier to discuss “election fraud” and previously joined an armed-citizen camp at the Texas border, prosecutors alleged in court filings.