Capitol Police Officers Testify As Jan. 6 Inquiry Begins
The first hearing of the special House committee investigating the attack featured four police officers who fought off the mob.,
‘This is how I’m going to die.’ Capitol Police officers testify as Jan. 6 inquiry begins.
- July 27, 2021, 9:30 a.m. ET
Aquilino A. Gonell, a Capitol Police sergeant and veteran of the Iraq war, was nearly crushed during the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol and has watched with frustration in the months since as some Republican members of Congress have attempted to downplay or deny the violence he confronted.
On Tuesday, Sergeant Gonell told his story in brutal and emotional detail before Congress, as one of four police officers who responded to the attack that day and are testifying at the first hearing of the select committee investigating the deadly storming of the Capitol. Republican leaders, who have repeatedly opposed efforts to scrutinize the incursion by a pro-Trump mob, boycotted the session.
“I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, ‘This is how I’m going to die — defending this entrance,'” Sergeant Gonell told the panel.
About 140 police officers were injured as supporters of President Donald J. Trump breached the Capitol, where Congress was meeting to count the electoral votes to formalize President Biden’s election. The rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” stalked the halls hunting for Speaker Nancy Pelosi and forced lawmakers to interrupt the count and evacuate their chambers.
“There is a continuous, shocking attempt to ignore or try to destroy the truth of what truly happened that day, and to whitewash the facts into something other than what they unmistakably reveal: An attack on our democracy by violent domestic extremists, and a stain on our history and our moral standing here at home and abroad,” Sergeant Gonell said, wiping away tears as he testified.
Democrats opened the hearing, which was expected to last for several hours, by playing previously unreleased video of the violence of Jan. 6, including body camera footage in which rioters could be seen at close range attacking and cursing the police as officers struggled to hold them back. The voices of rioters could be heard calmly directing the assault via radios as police officers could be heard on their own channels issuing panicked distress calls.
As the scenes and sounds of the violence played loudly in the hearing room, the officers, clad in their dark blue uniforms, grew emotional and some embraced each other.
In his opening remarks, Representative Bennie G. Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and chairman of the select committee, called the men “heroes,” who prevented an even-greater disaster.
“A violent mob was pointed toward the Capitol and told to win a trial by combat,” Mr. Thompson said. “Some descended on this city with clear plans to disrupt our democracy. One rioter said that they weren’t there to commit violence, but that, and I’m quoting, ‘We were just there to overthrow the government.'”
Officer Harry Dunn of the Capitol Police and two officers with the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, Officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges, who was crushed in a door during the rampage, also appeared before the committee.
Officer Fanone, who was beaten unconscious and subjected to repeated shocks with his own Taser by the mob, suffering a heart attack and a brain injury, said he heard rioters calling for him to be killed with his own gun.
“I was dragged from the line of officers and into the crowd,” he said. “I was electrocuted again and again and again.”
At one point during his testimony, he slammed his hand against the desk and called the attempts to downplay the violence “disgraceful.”
Officer Dunn planned to testify about how, as he fought off the rioters once they had broken into the Capitol, he and other Black officers faced a slew of racist slurs.
“In the days following the attempted insurrection, other Black officers shared with me their own stories of racial abuse on January 6,” he said in prepared remarks obtained by The New York Times.
The testimony came as House Republicans were at odds over the investigation. Ms. Pelosi appointed two Republicans — Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, both vocal critics of Mr. Trump — to serve on the committee, while rejecting two of the former president’s loyalists selected by Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader.
In her opening statement, Ms. Cheney said she was “obligated to rise above politics” by participating. She pledged quick subpoenas and to get the bottom of the incitement of the rioters and any potential ties to the Trump administration and campaign.
“We cannot leave the violence of January 6th and its causes un-investigated,” Ms. Cheney said. “We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House — every phone call, every conversation, every meeting leading up to, during, and after the attack.”
Mr. McCarthy pulled all five of the Republicans he had recommended for the panel and mocked Ms. Cheney and Mr. Kinzinger as “Pelosi Republicans,” suggesting he might try to strip them of other committee assignments as punishment.
G.O.P. leaders held their own event before the hearing, where they sought to deflect blame from Mr. Trump and themselves for the riot, saying the fault lay with Democrats who failed to fortify the Capitol against attack.
“Nancy Pelosi bears responsibility as speaker of the House for the tragedy that occurred on Jan. 6,” said Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, the No. 3 Republican who replaced Ms. Cheney when the party ousted her for speaking out against Mr. Trump.
Congressional leaders hire the law enforcement personnel responsible for Capitol security, but are typically not involved in day-to-day decisions about security protocols. Security at the Capitol is controlled by the Capitol Police Board, which includes the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms and the architect of the Capitol.
A group of far-right Republicans scheduled a protest outside the Justice Department later Tuesday to object to the treatment of “January 6th prisoners” who they claim have been mistreated because of their political beliefs.