Capitol Police Officers Testify As Jan. 6 Inquiry Begins
The first hearing of the special House committee investigating the attack, which included testimony from four police officers who fought off the mob, has concluded.,
‘A hit man sent them.’ Capitol Police officers testify as the Jan. 6 inquiry begins.
- July 27, 2021, 9:30 a.m. ET
In excruciating detail, four police officers who defended the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot told Congress on Tuesday of the brutal violence, racism and hostility they suffered as an angry mob they said acted in the name of President Donald J. Trump beat, crushed and electrocuted them as they labored to protect Congress.
One officer described how rioters attempted to gouge out his eye and called him a traitor as they sought to invade the Capitol. Another told of being smashed in a doorway and nearly crushed as he heard guttural screams of pain around him from fellow officers. A third said he was beaten unconscious and struck repeatedly with a Taser as he pleaded with the mob, “I have kids.” A fourth relayed how he was called a racist slur over and over again.
“All of them — all of them were telling us ‘Trump sent us,'” Aquilino A. Gonell, a Capitol Police sergeant, testified to the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol during its first hearing.
More than six months after the assault, the testimony by uniformed officers provided a set of gripping first-person narratives that brought home the harrowing events of Jan. 6, when Mr. Trump’s supporters, urged on by his lie of a stolen election, stormed the Capitol to disrupt the official counting of electoral votes to formalize President Biden’s victory.
House Republican leaders who have opposed efforts to investigate the assault boycotted the inquiry and dismissed it as a partisan ploy, so they were absent as the officers recounted in rawly emotional terms what they experienced that day, reliving their trauma in a Capitol Hill hearing room.
“This nigger voted for Joe Biden!” Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn told the panel a rioter had screamed at him, prompting a crowd to turn on him and scream, “Boo! Fucking nigger!”
Later, he begged the lawmakers leading the inquiry to uncover the full extent of Mr. Trump’s role.
“There was an attack on Jan. 6, and a hit man sent them,” he said. “I want you to get to the bottom of that.”
The testimony, punctuated by video montages of the rampage — including some footage from the body-worn cameras of police officers who testified — was an undeniable reminder of the brutal reality of the day. Lawmakers and officers alike grew emotional as they grappled with the implications of what unfolded, and expressed anger at the attempts of many Republicans to downplay or deny it.
“We still don’t know exactly what happened,” said Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of two Republicans afforded a seat on the panel by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who struggled to deliver his remarks through tears. “Why? Because many in my party have treated this as just another partisan fight. It’s toxic and it’s a disservice to the officers families.”
Democrats opened the hearing, which lasted for several hours, by playing previously unreleased video of the assault. 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.
“A violent mob was pointed toward the Capitol and told to win a trial by combat,” Representative Bennie G. Thompson, the chairman of the panel, said as he opened the session. “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.'”
The hearing was the latest indication of how Republicans, who often portray themselves as the party of law and order and the champions of law enforcement, have worked to thwart attempts to investigate the Jan. 6 attack, fearing its political implications for their party and Mr. Trump, to whom many of them remain loyal.
Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the other Republican whom Ms. Pelosi chose to serve on the panel, said she was “obligated to rise above politics” by participating. A leading critic of Mr. Trump who was booted from her Republican leadership post for speaking out about his election lies, she pledged quick subpoenas to uncover any potential ties between the rioters and 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.”
But on Tuesday, the hearing focused on the nightmare experienced by the police officers who responded that day.
Michael Fanone, a District of Columbia Metropolitan Police officer 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.”
Lawmakers played Officer Fanone’s body-worn camera video, in which he can be heard pleading for mercy — “I have kids,” he mutters — before being carried off by fellow officers and losing consciousness.
At one point, Officer Fanone slammed his hand against the desk, raised his voice and called the attempts to downplay the violence “disgraceful.”
Officer Daniel Hodges, another member of the Metropolitan Police, described how the mob descended into “terrorism,” booing and mocking the police as they flew American, Christian and Trump flags.
“Terrorists pushed through the line and engaged us in hand-to-hand combat,” he said.
As he was crushed in a door, rioters bashed him in the head, one attempting to gouge out his eye, he said.
Officer Hodges described the attack as a “white nationalist insurrection,” but said he held his fire because the few hundreds officers defending the Capitol would have been outgunned by the thousands in the mob.
Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the majority leader, pulled all five of the Republicans he had recommended for the panel after Ms. Pelosi rejected two of his selections who were close allies of Mr. Trump’s and who had repeated his false election claims and had disparaged the inquiry.
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 held a protest outside the Justice Department later Tuesday to object to the treatment of “January 6th prisoners” who they claimed had been mistreated because of their political beliefs.