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US Capitol police officers recount trauma of the January 6 Capitol riot in emotional testimonies

By abc.net.au , in World News , at July 28, 2021 Tags: , ,


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“This is how I’m going to die, defending this entrance.”

That was what Capitol Police Officer Aquilino Gonell told House investigators on Tuesday local time, saying he could feel himself losing oxygen as he was crushed by rioters – supporters of former president Donald Trump – while defending the Capitol during the January 6 insurrection.

The new House select committee opened its first hearing with a focus on the law enforcement officers who were attacked and beaten as the rioters broke into the building — an effort by the panel to put a human face on the violence of the day.

The police officers who testified endured some of the worst of the brutality.

Mr Gonell and other Capitol and Washington police officers gave emotional, sometimes-angry accounts of the attack to the new House committee investigating the day’s violent events.

He wiped away tears as he described hearing other officers screaming in agony and pain just a few feet away from him on January 6.

US Capitol police officer Gonell cries as he watches a video of the insurrection during the House select committee hearing.
During his testimony, Capitol Police officer Gonell blasted former president Donald Trump for recently describing the January 6 rioters as “a loving crowd”.(

AP: Andrew Harnik/Pool

)

“We fought hand-to-hand and inch-by-inch to prevent an invasion of the Capitol by a violent mob intent on subverting our democratic process.”

Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, who rushed to the scene, said he was “grabbed, beaten, tased, all while being called a traitor to my country.”

Doctors later told him he’d had a heart attack.

He said the rioters’ chants to kill him with his own gun are still ringing in his head today.

Metro police officer Michael Fanone appears angry as he testifies in front of the House select committeeMetro police officer Michael Fanone appears angry as he testifies in front of the House select committee
Washington Metropolitan Police officer Michael Fanone banged his fist on the table as he testified.(

AP: Andrew Harnik/Pool

)

Rebuking Republican politicians who have resisted the hearings, he added: “I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room.”

Frontline officers were beaten and abused with racial slurs as the mob of then-president Trump’s supporters overwhelmed them, broke through windows and doors and interrupted the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win.

US Capitol Police Sergeant Harry Dunn raises his right hand and swears in before giving his testimonyUS Capitol Police Sergeant Harry Dunn raises his right hand and swears in before giving his testimony
Capitol Police Sergeant Harry Dunn testified that he was met with racial slurs when he told rioters he voted for Joe Biden.(

AP: Chip Somodevilla/Pool

)

In front of the panel, Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn recalled being racially abused.

“One woman in a pink ‘MAGA’ shirt yelled, ‘you hear that, guys, this n****r voted for Joe Biden!’ Then the crowd, perhaps around 20 people, joined in, screaming ‘Boo! f***ing n****r!’ No-one had ever, ever — called me a ‘n****r’ while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer.”

Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges, in his testimony, called the rioters terrorists.

“Terrorists pushed through the line and engaged us in hand-to-hand combat. 

“One latched onto my face and got his thumb in my right eye, attempting to gouge it out,” he said.

Washington Metro Police officer Daniel Hodges appears angry as he testifies.Washington Metro Police officer Daniel Hodges appears angry as he testifies.
Washington Metropolitan Police officer Daniel Hodges says he did the only thing he could do while he was being attacked: scream for help.(

AP: Chip Somodevilla/Pool

)

He said he remembers foaming at the mouth as rioters crushed him between two doors and bashed him in the head with his own weapon, injuring his skull.

Many Republicans have played down the violence that occurred, denouncing the Democratic-led investigation as politically motivated.

Democrats now want to launch the probe by reminding people how brutal it was, and how the law enforcement officers who were sworn to protect the Capitol suffered grave injuries at the hands of the rioters.

A photo of Capitol Police officer Gonell's foot injury sustained during the riot.A photo of Capitol Police officer Gonell's foot injury sustained during the riot.
A photo of the foot injury sustained by Sergeant Gonell during the riot.(

AFP: Andrew Harnik/Pool

)

The probe will examine not only Mr Trump’s role in the insurrection but the right-wing groups involved in coordination before the attack and the security failures that allowed hundreds of people to breach the Capitol.

Some of those who broke in were calling for the deaths of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then vice-president Mike Pence, who was hiding just feet away from the mob.

Shortly after the insurrection, almost every Republican denounced the violent mob — and Mr Trump himself, who told his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat.

But many have softened their tone in recent months and weeks.

AP/Reuters

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