Chicago Firefighter Wasn’t at US Capitol Siege: Mistaken Identity on Social Media Precedes Criminal Complaint from United States Attorney’s Office District of Columbia

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Robert Sanford, assault and civil disorder suspect at U.S. Capitol January 6, 2021
Robert Sanford, assault and civil disorder suspect at U.S. Capitol January 6, 2021.

In his 32 years as a Chicago firefighter, David Quintavalle has put out a few fires, but he could not put out the fire lit by internet sleuths and justice warriors this week. The retired firefighter tells CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar it’s been hell. YouTube Tips ⓘ

Retired Chicago firefighter David Quintavalle was incorrectly identified in media reports (not any CARDINAL NEWS reports) as a rioter in the U.S. Capitol siege Wednesday, January 6, 2021 that involved the death of U.S. Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick. The retired Chicago firefighter resembles a retired firefighter from Chester Fire Department in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, who is facing a criminal complaint from the United States Attorney’s Office District of Columbia.

According to the United States Attorney’s Office District of Columbia, Robert Sanford, age 55, of Boothwyn, Pennsylvania, was charged by criminal complaint with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, disorderly or disruptive conduct on capitol grounds, civil disorder, and assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers while engaged in the performance of official duties.

Allegedly, during the events at the U.S. Capitol, Sanford struck three U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) officers with a fire extinguisher. A video, recorded by an individual who was present in the crowd, captures when a male offender throws what appears to be a fire extinguisher at a group of USCP officers protecting the lower west terrace of the U.S. Capitol, according to The United State’s Attorney’s Office District of Columbia.

In the video, according to the US Attorney’s Office, a fire extinguisher struck one officer, who was wearing a helmet, in the head; then, the fire extinguisher ricochets striking a second officer, who was not wearing a helmet, in the head; and ricochets a third time and strikes a third officer, wearing a helmet, in the head. After throwing the fire extinguisher at USCP officers, suspect Robert Sanford leaves the area in the opposite direction. Federal authorities were able to identify Sanford, after receiving a tip on January 12, 2021.

A USCP officer, who was not wearing a helmet, had his back turned when the fire extinguisher hit him in the back of his head. He did not appear to lose consciousness — even for an instant. Instead he turned to look toward the direction of the source of the fire extinguisher projectile. Initially, there was no official description of the death of USCP officer Brian Sicknick, and initially there was no official autopsy results released for officer Brian Sicknick. Neither of the initial official releases from the US Attorney’s Office or the United States Capitol Police confirmed that Sicknick’s death was caused by the impact of the thrown fire extinguisher.

According to the United States Capitol Police, the death of USCP Officer Sicknick is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police Department’s Homicide Branch, the USCP, and federal partners. The USCP statement only said that Officer Sicknick was responding to the riots on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol and was injured while physically engaging with protesters. He returned to his division office and collapsed. He was transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

Robert Sanford, assault and civil disorder suspect at U.S. Capitol January 6, 2021
Robert Sanford, assault and civil disorder suspect at U.S. Capitol January 6, 2021.

Social media-inspired accusations against retired Chicago firefighter David Quintavalle, age 62-year-old came out of the blue Monday night, January 11, 2021, when his email and cell phone began lighting up with threatening messages such as:

“You’re a f***ing murderer and a traitor. And I can’t believe you killed a cop, and your son’s a cop. Wow. Good luck in prison (bleep).”

— Recorded phone message

On January 6, 2021, Quintavalle was home in Chicago celebrating his wife’s birthday — and he says he has shopping receipts to prove it.

Apparently, a “social media sleuth” mistakenly identified Quintavalle as the man who threw a fire extinguisher that hit three USCP police officers at the US Capitol siege on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. Suspect Robert Sanford was wearing a ‘CFD’ winter hat, but the hat was a Chester Fire Department hat, not a Chicago Fire Department hat.

The sleuth’s post went viral.

“I don’t feel safe. I am so glad the Chicago Police Department sent a car out there to protect my house.”

— David Quintavalle, retired Chicago firefighter

“What happened to Mr. Quintavalle is a sad example of how a case of mistaken identification and social media can destroy a person’s life,” said attorney John Nisivaco.

“To let everybody know, I did not do this. And what happened to me with the social media, it could happen to you.”

— David Quintavalle, retired Chicago firefighter

Quintavalle is concerned he still needs to clear his name.

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