Four law enforcement officers who responded to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol testified Tuesday about their near-deadly experiences attempting to repel the rioters that stormed the building, condemning Republican lawmakers who have downplayed the attack.
Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell said officers were “subject to… something from a medieval battle” and fought “hand-to-hand” with rioters, stating that, at one point, he thought to himself, “this is how I’m going to die.”
Gonell said his troubles didn’t end after the attack, recounting how he refused a hug from his wife when he returned home and couldn’t sleep due to the chemicals from pepper spray and bear mace on his skin and uniform: “My skin was burning.”
D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone said he was repeatedly tased as rioters chanted “kill him with his own gun,” and that doctors told him he suffered a heart attack during the riot, diagnosing him with a concussion, a traumatic brain injury and PTSD.
Slamming the table in a moment of rage, Fanone said “the indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful,” declaring that the lawmakers who “continue to deny the events of that day” have “betrayed their oath of office.”
D.C. police officer Daniel Hodges, who was seen on video having his gas mask yanked off while wedged in a door, recalled how rioters, who he called “terrorists,” repeatedly tried to recruit him, with another saying, “you will die on your knees.”
Hodges rebutted GOP claims the rioters did not carry guns, telling the committee “multiple gun arrests” were made between Jan. 5 and 7, but adding “we will never know how many were carrying firearms” because of the limited arrests made at the Capitol.
Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, who is Black, said he faced a “torrent of racial epithets,” including roughly 20 rioters calling him a “f****** n*****,” an experience he said other Black officers shared as well.
Some officers expressed a belief the attack stopped just short of calamity. Fanone said he thinks if rioters had successfully stormed a tunnel entrance to the Capitol, “They would have trampled us to death. Most certainly you would’ve had police officers killed.” Hodges said he didn’t shoot any rioters for fear that it may have triggered an explosion or mass shooting, adding that he was concerned lawmakers could be killed and tip the balance of power in Congress.
“I’m still recovering from those ‘hugs and kisses’ that day,” Gonell said of former President Donald Trump’s comments about the incident in response to a question from Cheney. Gonell said Trump’s characterizations of the attack are a “pathetic excuse,” adding, “Instead of sending the military… or telling his supporters to stop this nonsense, he egged them [on] to continue fighting.”
The House passed a resolution last month to create the select committee after Senate Republicans blocked an independent commission. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) to the panel along with seven Democrats, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy refusing to seat any of his members after Pelosi vetoed Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.) from serving.
McCarthy said during a press conference ahead of the hearing that it will be a “failed committee and a failed report. A sham that nobody can believe,” because Pelosi refused to seat his appointees. House Minority Whip Steve said Jordan and Banks were “canceled” by Pelosi.
What To Watch For
Four lawmakers who have been among the most prolific downplayers of Jan. 6 in Congress – Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) – plan to hold a press conference outside the Department of Justice to protest the treatment of Capitol riot defendants. “It’s pathetic, and they shouldn’t be elected officials anymore,” Gonell said of the lawmakers.