Capitol Police Officers Deliver Emotional Testimony in Day One of Jan. 6 Commission: 'I Recall Thinking, This Is How I'm Going to Die'
Day one of a House Committee hearing on the Jan. 6 riots by a mob of Trump supporters began with emotional testimony from four Capitol Police Officers on Tuesday, as they explained how they fought for their own lives while working to protect the building and the lawmakers inside.
Wiping away tears, Capitol Police Officer Aquilino Gonell detailed how his family spent hours desperately attempting to contact him while watching the events unfold on the news.
It wasn't until he spent hours being attacked both physically and verbally — even at one point offering CPR to one of the rioters — 'that I finally had a chance to let my own family know that I was alive," Gonell testified.
As Gonell explained, he didn't arrive home until 4 a.m. on Jan. 7. He was on his way back to the Capitol building, to head back to work, just four hours later.
The stories from Gonnell's colleagues were similarly striking.
Explaining how he was "assaulted and nearly killed" on Jan. 6, Officer Michael Fanone said he feared he would be "torn apart or shot to death" while he was being attacked by a "violent and angry mob."
Fanone explained how he was beaten and "electrocuted again and again and again" with a taser, while he could hear rioters yelling, "Get his gun and kill him with his own gun."
"I thought of my four daughters who might lose their dad," Fanone said, adding, "I remained grateful that no member of Congress had to go through" what he did.
In an effort to appeal to the attackers' consciences, Fanone said he told them he was a father with kids at home.
"I said as loud as I could manage, 'I've got kids,' " he said. At that point, some of the rioters allowed him space and he was brought inside the building.
"I had been beaten unconscious and remained so for more than four minutes," Fanone continued. He said was then driven to the hospital by a fellow officer who had suffered his own injuries. Once there, he was told he had suffered a heart attack and was later diagnosed with a concussion, a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
DC Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges offered a similar story in his own testimony, explaining how the mob of pro-Trump rioters called he and his fellow officers "traitors," and attempted to disarm him of his baton while shouting, "You will die on your knees."
Hodges explained that he was attacked, thrown to his hands and knees, and had his medical mask pulled over his eyes during the riots. He was later crushed by a large group of Trump supporters as they breached the building (footage of which was shown prior to his testimony).
In his own testimony, Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn described the racist epithets he and other Black officers endured on Jan. 6.
Explaining how he told the pro-Trump rioters that he voted for Joe Biden (to dispute their claims that "no one" voted for Biden), Dunn said the mob's rhetoric quickly grew racist: "One woman in a pink MAGA shirt yelled, 'You hear that guys: this n----- voted for Joe Biden!' Then the crowd, perhaps around twenty people, joined in, screaming, 'Boo! F------ N-----!' "
Dunn continued: "No one had ever — ever — called me a n----- while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police office ... One officer told me he had never, in his entire forty years of life, been called a n----- to his face, and that that streak ended on January 6."
There were five deaths in connection with the Jan. 6 riots, during which a large group of Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol complex as lawmakers gathered to certify Electoral College votes for President Biden.
Democrats and some Republicans have pushed for a more thorough investigation into the security failures that allowed the pro-Trump mob to successfully storm the building — and to investigate what role the former president, 74, played in the deadly attack.
In February, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced plans to launch "an outside, independent 9/11-type Commission to investigate and report on the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021 domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex."
Though a measure that would establish an independent commission passed the House, Senate Republicans blocked a similar bipartisan effort. Some Republicans have even gone so far as to downplay the events entirely.
Gonell used his opening statement to question those who have failed to condemn the attacks (noting that many are the same people who expressed outrage at those who kneel during the National Anthem as a means of protest against police brutality): "There are some who expressed outrage when someone simply kneeled for social justice … Where are those same people expressing outrage to condemn the violent attack on law enforcement officers, the U.S. Capitol, and our American democracy?"
Even more than six months later, the officers explained they and their families continue to feel the impacts from the Jan. 6 attempted insurrection.
"My children continue to deal with the trauma of nearly losing their dad that day," Fanone continued. "What makes the struggle harder...is to know so many of the people I put my life at risk to defend are downplaying or outright denying what happened. I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room."
Growing more emotional, Fanone raised his voice as he lambasted those who have tried to downplay the events of Jan. 6, saying: "The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful."
Fanone continued: "Nothing, truly nothing, has prepared me to address those elected members of our government who continue to deny the events of that day. And in doing so, betray their oath of office."