If there were any doubts about the role Samuel Lazar played during the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol, the Lancaster County man cleared them up within hours of the attack.
He posted to Facebook: “There’s a time for war. Our constitution allows us to abolish our [government] and install a new one in [its] place.” And in a video shared on Twitter, while the building was still being cleared, Lazar — dressed in a tactical vest and goggles, camouflage face paint melting down his face — boasted of his mettle while skirmishing with police.
“They maced us … so we maced ‘em right the f — back,” he said. “I was right at the front, on the tip of the spear.”
And yet in the six months that followed — even as he appeared on the FBI’s list of most wanted insurrection suspects, posed for photos with prominent Pennsylvania GOP candidates like 2022 gubernatorial hopeful Doug Mastriano, and featured in more videos that surfaced from the insurrection including one depicting him using a giant Trump campaign sign as a battering ram to break through police lines — Lazar remained free.
That changed Tuesday as federal authorities in Washington announced they had arrested the self-described 37-year-old entrepreneur from Ephrata on charges of assaulting officers and signaled their intention to keep him in jail until trial.
Lazar had emerged as one of the chief targets of the online community of amateur sleuths that has worked to identify riot participants, who had dubbed him with the moniker “Face Paint Blowhard” due to the camo makeup he wore that day.
But the internet sedition hunters had grown increasingly frustrated with the apparent impunity Lazar seemed to enjoy for months after they had first ID'd him from his social media postings.
In that time, Lazar appeared unapologetic, attending right-wing political rallies as recently as last month and fund-raisers for Mastriano, a state senator, one of Pennsylvania’s most prominent election deniers, and a figure widely seen as a contender in the GOP primary for governor in 2022.
The FBI declined to comment Tuesday on its delay in charging Lazar. But officials have previously cited the overwhelming number of leads they are sorting through in their efforts to track down those who participated in the attack — efforts that have so far led to the arrest of more than 550 people, including more than 50 from Pennsylvania.
The complaint unsealed Tuesday revealed that agents had information pointing to Lazar as a riot suspect even before the online sedition hunter community identified him as one of the FBI’s most wanted suspects in April.
As early as March 2, it said, a tipster who claimed to have known Lazar for 28 years pointed investigators to Lazar’s Facebook page, where he chronicled his activities during the riot.
There, Lazar had posted a video he shot of himself in Washington early on the morning of Jan. 6.
“It’s going to be an eventful day,” he said. “Donald Trump is going to shock the world. We’re ready for war, if needed.”
He later removed many of the incriminating posts after the local news site LancasterOnline.com used them to identify him as one of the rioters in a story published four days after the attack.
In building their case, prosecutors appear to have relied primarily on the dozens of other videos from that day that have surfaced on social media showing Lazar breaking down barricades, urging the mob on with a megaphone, and ripping a bike rack away from an officer attempting to use it as a shield.
In one cited in his charging documents, Lazar is seen spraying what appears to be pepper spray at officers.
“Hang the mother—ers!” he shouts to the nearby crowd, encouraging others to join in.
It was that video, in part, that led to uncomfortable questions for Mastriano when photos surfaced of him smiling with his arm around Lazar at a May fund-raiser in Chambersburg in which Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani was a featured guest.
Mastriano later denied knowing who Lazar was.
“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?” the senator asked in a statement.
But the same group of online sleuths that first identified Lazar and uncovered the fund-raiser photos responded by finding at least half a dozen other images of the two men photographed together during earlier events — including a Nov. 25 state Senate hearing in Gettysburg, where Mastriano first emerged as one of the primary proponents of Trump’s stolen election lies.
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 erupted, videos have since surfaced that appear to show him passing through police barricades near people brawling with police.
Lazar’s siblings have since decried the senator’s efforts to distance himself on Facebook and claimed in a video that Mastriano denied knowing the family of longtime supporters for political reasons.
As recently as June 5, the senator was again photographed in proximity to Lazar at a Reopen Pennsylvania rally in Pittsburgh.
Two days after that event, court filings say, a local police officer who had past personal contact with Lazar again reported his involvement in the Capitol riot to investigators — the identification that appeared to seal the FBI’s case against him.
He now faces charges including assaulting police and obstruction of law enforcement during a civil disorder, the most serious of which could send him to prison for up to 20 years.
During a brief court hearing Tuesday, Lazar said he intends to dispute the charges and agreed to remain in custody until a hearing can be held in Washington on whether he should be released pending trial.
Read the complaint: