Man arrested in D.C. with explosives had threatening note mentioning Rep. André Carson

An Alabama man who police say parked a truck filled with explosives and firearms near the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riots also had “concerning handwritten messages” in the vehicle — including one that singled out U.S. Rep. André Carson of Indiana. 

Lonnie Coffman, 70, was arrested Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C. and indicted in federal court Monday on 17 gun and ammunition charges after prosecutors say police found explosive devices, a cache of firearms and a number of other weapons in the man’s truck during the insurrection at the nation’s Capitol.

Court documents filed Tuesday included photos of the 11 Molotov cocktails, loaded handguns, assault rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition police found in Coffman’s pickup truck parked blocks away from the Capitol building. 

But prosecutors also included a photograph of a handwritten message labeling conservative and right-wing media personalities “good guys,”a judge appointed by Barack Obama as a “bad guy” and a note about Carson, the Democratic Indiana Congressman.

The note does not explicitly put Carson in either the “good” or the “bad” camp, but it notes that he is one of a small number of Muslims serving in the House of Representatives. 

At the top of Coffman’s handwritten note was a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln that read: “We the people are the rightful masters of both the Congress and the Courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”

Lincoln did write a similar version of that quote, according fact-checkers Snopes.com, but he used the words in the context of preventing the spread of slavery. 

Prosecutors in a motion for pre-trial detention called the letter “concerning” and said the messages “raise alarm in the context of the January 6 rioting and criminal infringement on our nation’s democratic process.”

“… the handwritten messages in the defendant’s pickup truck raise grave concerns about his intentions, and suggest that these weapons were intended to be used in an effort to violently attack our elected representatives,” U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin wrote in the filing. 

Carson in a statement on Coffman’s indictment said it was “extremely disturbing” to learn he was “in a list of ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ targeted for attacks.”

The Indiana Democrat said he learned of the letter through press reports, adding it was “especially disappointing” law enforcement did not notify him he was “targeted and at risk from the indicted terrorist and his co-conspirators.”

Andre Carson, U.S. House of Representatives member, speaks at the national convention for the Young Democrats of America, held in Indianapolis, Friday, July 19, 2019.

“The indicted terrorist had the means and opportunity to carry out his plans to violently attack, injure and destroy government officials and related offices in our Nation’s Capitol,” Carson said in a statement to IndyStar. “These were not idle threats. These were planned and organized measures to take my life, my colleagues’ lives and try to destroy our government.

“Sadly, as a Black man and a Muslim fighting for equality, I have often been the target of death threats by domestic terrorists…. Seeing these seditionists rampage throughout the Capitol with their confederate flags, learning that many of the attackers had affiliations with law enforcement organizations, and then seeing the arsenals these attackers held, there should no longer be any doubt that this dangerous threat must be addressed as soon as possible,” he added.

Capitol police first became aware of Coffman’s truck and weapons after reports of possible explosive devices in the National Republican Club and the Democratic National Committee Headquarters Jan. 6, according to the court filing. 

While conducting sweeps of those areas, officers noticed the handle of a firearm on the passenger seat of a red GMC Sierra later identified as Coffman’s truck. Officers eventually searched the vehicle, recovering the numerous weapons. 

Coffman was arrested after attempting to return to his truck around 6:30 p.m. 

Prosecutors in the filing Tuesday said the number of weapons recovered from Coffman’s truck suggested “an intent to provide them to others, as no one person could reasonably use so many at once.” 

They said Coffman “appears to have been motivated to conduct violence against our elected representatives” and noted the Molotov cocktails in the bed of the truck were created to be particularly lethal — they contained a napalm-like substance that would stick to the target and continue to burn. 

Coffman was scheduled to appear in court for his preliminary hearing Tuesday afternoon.

Contact Lawrence Andrea at 317-775-4313 or landrea@indystar.com. Follow him on Twitter @lawrencegandrea.