Alabama man charged with bringing guns, molotov cocktails to DC had militia ties, judge says

Published 9:41 pm Tuesday, May 25, 2021

A Vietnam veteran charged with bringing 11 molotov cocktails and other weapons to Washington on the day of the U.S. Capitol riot had driven around the area a month prior, kept lists of officials and tried to find Republican Sen. Ted Cruz to discuss election fraud, a judge wrote in a court document.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on Monday ordered that 71-year-old Lonnie Coffman of Falkville, Alabama, should remain jailed until his trial on firearms charges. The federal judge cited Coffman’s training at a Texas militia camp, his large stockpile of weaponry and actions, before and during the Jan. 6 insurrection, in the decision to deny him release.

“This evidence of lists of political officials and public figures, Mr. Coffman’s access to significant weaponry and his demonstrated ability to travel to Washington, D.C., raises serious concerns about Mr. Coffman’s intentions and the danger he presents to the community,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

Manuel J. Retureta, a defense lawyer representing Coffman, declined to comment about the case.

The FBI in 2014 identified Coffman as a participant at Camp Lonestar, a reported gathering place for Texas militia groups and had information about two other militia groups, the judge wrote. Coffman had kept lists of officials at his home with disparaging descriptions such as “ex Dem. Senator, traitor” and “radical Dem. Senator.”

The court order said GPS from Coffman’s truck indicated he had visited Washington at the end of 2020 and driven around the Capitol and attempted to contact Cruz about his concerns over purported election fraud by both calling his office and looking for his home.

A Cruz staff member told police that Coffman did not seem threatening but had seemed “unbalanced” or “not 100% there,” according to the judge’s order.

Police on Jan. 6 found Coffman’s truck in Washington packed with eleven mason jars containing a flammable liquid, several loaded guns, a crossbow with bolts; several machetes; camouflage smoke devices; and a stun gun, according to the order.

Coffman was arrested the evening of Jan. 6 when law enforcement officers discovered the weapons in his truck after authorities swept the area following the discovery of pipe bombs near two buildings. Prosecutors said Coffman left his truck in the morning during that day of chaos and rioting and was arrested when he returned to the vehicle in the evening.

Coffman is an Army veteran who served two tours during the Vietnam War. According to family members, he dealt with depression and “often spoke about the difficulty he had dealing with the experiences from the war,” the court document said. A family member said Coffman “became a hermit after he separated from his wife,” according to the court document.