Three Washington DC police officers have described their harrowing experience defending the Capitol during the January 6 assault by supporters of US President Donald Trump attempting to overturn the 2020 election results.
The riots left four people dead, among them a police officer, Brian Sicknick, who was bludgeoned in the head with a fire extinguisher. Trump had urged his backers to march on Congress and “fight like hell” to save the country and stop President-elect Joe Biden from taking office on January 20.
“It was just absolute chaos. And brutal, medieval-style combat,” the Metropolitan Police Department’s Mike Fanone told US media. Fanone was beaten and tased by the rioters and suffered a mild heart attack from which he is recovering.
“Ironically I was being beaten by a thin blue line flag,” Fanone said of the symbol of support for police, usually employed by conservatives.
“I had my badge ripped off, my radio was ripped off, one of my ammunition magazines was stripped from my belt. And guys were trying to grab my gun and they were chanting, ‘Kill him with his own gun,’ he said.
“At that point I was thinking ‘How do I survive this situation.”
He said he considered using his gun but assumed the crowd would overpower him, disarm him and shoot him.
“I started thinking maybe I can appeal to somebody’s humanity and I started just yelling that I have kids. And it seemed to work,” Fanone recounted. A number of protesters defended him until other policemen pulled him away.
To those who assisted him, Fanone said his feelings were: “Thank you, but, you know, fuck you for being there.”
Officer Daniel Hodges became famous for footage that showed him crushed by a door and crying out in pain as crowds assaulted the Capitol.
“They were calling us traitors, shouting at us, telling us to remember our oath, and eventually, they attacked us,” Hodges said. “They attacked us. Fists, trying to steal our equipment, pushing, hitting, kicking, that kind of thing.”
Later, defending a hallway leading into the building, he became crushed by the door as protesters shoved to get in.
“At that moment in the hallway where I was pinned, I was there to do my best to keep them out, obviously, and the way I was doing that was with my body,” he said. “Unfortunately, at that moment, my arms were pinned. I was unable to defend myself.
One person attempted to gouge out his eye, while another hit him with his own baton.
“You see someone in the video who rips my gas mask off, he’s also able to rip away my baton and beat me with it,” he says. “At that point I was sucking in [tear] gas, so I was pretty disabled,” Hodges said.
“That was one of the three times that day where I thought: Well, this might be it. This might be the end for me.”
Eventually policemen, Fanone among them (prior to his own ordeal), were able to pull him inside to safety.
“They had bear mace, which is literally used for bears. I got hit with it plenty of times that day and it just seals your eyes shut,” officer Christina Laury said. “You just would see officers going down trying to douse themselves with water, trying to open their eyes up so they can see again.
“The second they were able to open their eyes, they were back up front and they were just trying to stop these individuals from coming in,” she said. “I remember people swinging metal poles at us. They were pushing and shoving. They were spraying us with bear mace and pepper spray.”
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday that retired general Russel Honore, who coordinated the Hurricane Katrina response, will oversee an immediate security review at the US Capitol following last week’s deadly riot by the pro-Trump mob.
The inspectors-general of various federal departments, including Homeland Security, Justice and Defense, also announced their own internal investigations Friday to assess their preparations and response to the January 6 violence.
They will seek to determine what information was available before the riot, how it was circulated among the various federal law enforcement agencies, and their reactions on the day, they said in statements, adding that they will coordinate their investigations.
Law enforcement has come under heavy criticism since the attack by Trump supporters, who were able to easily enter the building and create chaos for several hours before being dislodged.
Questions focus on the existence of information that the FBI did not circulate to its partners, and the slowness with which the Pentagon deployed National Guard soldiers.
Pelosi also said there was “strong interest” in Congress for a 9/11-style investigation of the unprecedented attack on the Capitol that has been described as an insurrection, and which led to the swift second impeachment Wednesday of President Donald Trump.
A handful of conservative House Republicans loyal to Trump are under scrutiny for their role in potentially coordinating with hardline activists who helped plan the action on the Capitol.
“If in fact it is found that members of Congress were accomplices to this insurrection, if they aided and abetted the crime,” Pelosi said, “there may have to be actions taken beyond the Congress in terms of prosecution.”