PHILADELPHIA — A Lancaster County man whose ties to state Sen. Doug Mastriano and whose boasts of macing police during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot earned him a level of notoriety among amateur online insurrection hunters has been arrested, according to court filings unsealed Tuesday.
Agents detained Samuel Lazar, 37, outside of his home in Ephrata Monday, three months after online sleuths first identified him as Suspect 275 from photos issued by the bureau of its most wanted insurrectionists.
They knew him by the nickname “Face Paint Blowhard,” a moniker the online sedition hunter community gave him due to the distinctive figure he cut — dressed in a tactical vest and goggles and with his face painted in camouflage — in photos and videos circulated on social media from the front lines of the deadly attack.
“We need to hang these motherf—-ers,” he shouts.
That appearance of impunity prompted questions from some about why Lazar had not been charged alongside the dozens of other Pennsylvanians prosecuted for playing a role in the riot.
The FBI declined to comment on the delay in Lazar’s arrest. But officials have previously blamed such delays in other Capitol cases on the overwhelming number of leads they have received in their efforts to track down insurrectionists.
Lazar is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court in Allentown Tuesday afternoon on charges including assaulting police and obstruction of law enforcement during a civil disorder.
But Lazar may have contributed much of the evidence against him through his own Facebook posts, chronicling his activities in Washington the day of the riot.
Early on the morning of Jan. 6, he posted a video of himself in Washington in anticipation of what he described as “an eventful day.”
“Donald Trump is going to shock the world!” he said. “We’re ready for war, if needed.”
He posted again after the day’s chaos, saying there is “a time for peace and there’s a time for war.”
“Our constitution allows us to abolish our [government] and install a new one in [its] place,” he wrote.
Lazar removed many of those posts from his Facebook page after local news site LancasterOnline.com used them to identify him as one of the rioters in a story published four days after the attack.
But Lazar in his distinctive getup was featured in several of the most widely spread images of that day. They appear to put him among one of the first groups to breach the barricades on the Capitol’s west front.
In them, he can be seen breaking away barricades, shouting in officers’ faces, guiding the mob forward via a megaphone, trying to grab a bike rack away from an officer using it as a shield and helping other rioters use a giant Trump sign as a battering ram against the police line.
In one video, Lazar is seen spraying what appears to be a can of pepper spray at officers and shouting at others nearby to join in.
Mastriano’s campaign spent thousands of dollars chartering buses to Washington for Trump supporters on Jan. 6. And despite the Franklin County Republican’s public condemnation of the riot and claim that he left as soon as violence broke out, videos have since surfaced that appear to depict him passing through breached barricades near people brawling with police.
The May fundraiser was hosted at a Christian school in Chambersburg and featured Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani as its keynote speaker, just days after his home and offices were raided by the FBI in a separate corruption investigation.
In photos from the event, Lazar is seen posing alongside Mastriano and other GOP election skeptics including Senate hopeful Kathy Barnette of Montgomery County, state Rep. Stephanie Borowicz of Wayne Township and Teddy Daniels, who is running to represent portions of Northeast Pennsylvania in Congress.
Mastriano, responding to the photos, has since denied knowing Lazar and publicly condemned his actions at the Capitol in a statement.
“Why would you assume that every politician who takes a picture with someone at an event automatically knows who they are or agrees with what they believe?” he wrote.
But the same group of online sleuths that first identified Lazar and uncovered his photos with Mastriano later discovered that the two had been photographed together at two earlier events — an event in late November and a December trip to Washington in which they posed outside the U.S. Supreme Court building while attending a “Stop the Steal” rally.
As recently as last month, Mastriano was photographed alongside Lazar, wearing a “Back the Blue” T-shirt at a Reopen Pennsylvania rally in Harrisburg.
Story by Jeremy Roebuck, The Philadelphia Inquirer.