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“This is how I am going to die.” – Capitol Police Officer and Army veteran Aquillino Gonell, on his thoughts after insurrectionists beat him, sprayed him with chemicals, and called for his execution.  

View video of full hearing: https://www.c-span.org/video/?513434-1/capitol-dc-police-testify-january-6-attack

By Miriam Raftery

July 28, 2021 (Washington D.C.) – Four l police officers gave emotional and at times, tearful testimony yesterday before the House select committee on the January 6 insurrection, revealing how the mob violently assaulted, tortured, and nearly killed law enforcement officers defending the Capitol 

The officers endured beatings, eye gouging, tasering to the head, death threats, and lasting injuries. Much of their testimony was backed up by newly released body cam video footage showing supporters of Donald Trump brutally attacking the officers, who implored Congressional members to assure that everyone responsible is held accountable.

The House committee includes Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, along with Democrats. Senate Republicans filibustered any effort to appoint an independent bipartisan commission as was done to investigate the 9/11 attacks, so Speaker Pelosi appointed members of both parties and invited House minority leader Kevin McCarthy to name additional members. But after Pelosi vetoed two of his six picks because of conflicts of interest, since the two could be called as witnesses and possible conspirators, McCarthy withdrew all six of his nominations and refused to name others.

Both McCarthy and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell have said they did not watch yesterday’s hearing, citing other business commitments. But for much of the nation that tuned in to watch, the evidence presented was deeply disturbing.

Below are highlights of the officers’ testimony:

DC Metro Officer Michael Fanone nearly died after he was beaten viciously to unconsciousness by the mob and suffered a heart attack. They grabbed his radio and weapon. His testimony and video shown revealed a rioter shouting “Get his gun! Kill him with his own gun!”  Then he states, “I was electrocuted again and again with a taser.”

Believing he was about to die, he pleaded, “ I have kids.” Fellow officers managed to drag him to safety and he was taken to a hospital with multiple life-threatening injuries. He now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

At least one member of Congress has described the violent mob as “tourists” and many in the GOP have tried to downplay ties by GOP members to some of the insurrectionists, despite the fact that the mob had erected a gallows outside the Capitol and were heard on tape threatening to kill Republican President Mike Pence as well as members of Congress in both parties, as well as halt counting and certification of votes in the presidential election.

In a flash of anger, Fanon slammed his fist on the table at the hearing and said, “The indifference being shown to my colleagues is disgraceful!” He added, “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.”

DE Metro Police Officer Daniel Hodges was seen in a viral video being crushed in a door frame by the mob and having his gas mask ripped off.  The domestic terrorists bashed his head, kicked his chest, sprayed him with a chemical irritant such as tear gas or bear spray, pulled a mask over his eyes to blind him, Hodges told Congressional members. One attacker told Hodges he would “die on his knees.”  He screamed for help and fortunately was rescued by fellow officers.

He described the attackers as “terrorists” who broke apart fencing and bike racks outside to use as weapons. He also voiced disgust that some in the mob were carry the “thin blue line flag, a symbol of support for law enforcement” while they violently assaulted officers.

Hodges implored the panel, “I need you guys to address if anyone in power had a role in this. If anyone in power coordinated or aided or abetted or tried to downplay, tried to prevent the investigation of this terrorist attack.”

Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who is black, said the insurrectionists shouted racial slurs at him. “No one had ever called me a nigger while wearing my Capitol Police uniform,” he said.

Dunn voiced anger at those who have sought to distort what happened or cast blame on others.  “Why is telling the truth hard?” he asked, noting that the insurrectionists were clearly Trump supporters, many wearing MAGA shirts and chanting “Stop the steal,” a reference to Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that he won the election – a claim that over 60 courts have rejected, including judges appointed by Trump.

He then suggested that former President Trump bears responsibility for inciting the mob to violence. “If a hitman is hired and he kills somebody, the hitman goes to jail. But not only does the hitman go to jail, but the person who hired them does,” he testified. “There was an attack carried out on January 6 and a hitman sent them.”

Dunn also asked the Congressional members to allocated additional funds for mental health counseling for officers traumatized by the events on January 6. Dozens of officers were injured, some permanently, and two have committed suicide after the Capitol attack.

Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, a U.S.Army veteran, recalled, “On January 6, for the firsts time, I was more afraid working at the Capitol than during my entire Army deployment to Iraq.”

Gonell described how he and other officers, seriously outnumbered, tried to fight off the mob but were kicked, punched, beaten and bloodied with flagpoles and sprayed with chemicals. He suffered injuries to his shoulder, leg, both hands and a foot; Gonell remains on medical leave.

He  heard one insurrectionist call for his execution. “This is how I’m going to die,” he recalled thinking during the melee. Later, he returned home and pushed his distraught wife away because he was covered in chemicals, he told the Congressional members, wiping away tears during his testimony.

He holds Trump responsible, noting that Trump not only fired up the mob to disrupt the vote, but that even after the violence was being broadcast on live TV, “instead of sending the military, instead of sending support or telling his people, his supporters, to stop this nonsense – he egged them to continue fighting.”

He, too, voiced anger at the whitewashing of what happened. “We were all fighting for our lives to give them – to give you guys – a hance to go home to your family, to escape. And now the same people we helped, the same people who we gave them the borrowed time to get to safety, now they’re attacking us, attacking our character,” he said.

Committee members react

Members of the bipartisan committee thanked the officers for defending their lives and protecting democracy. 

“If we’re no longer committed to a peaceful transfer of power after our elections if our side doesn’t win, then God help us,” said Democrat Adam Schiff.

The two Republicans on the committeealso condemned the violence and vowed to hold those responsible for it accountable. 

Rep. Kinzinger made clear he views the violence as an attempted “coup” and condemned some of his colleagues in the GOP for trying to cover up the truth. “It’s  a disservice to the officers and their families, to staff and employees of the Capitol complex, to the American people who deserve the truth, and to the generations who went to war before us to defend self-governance,” Kinzinger stated.

Rep. Liz Cheney told the officers, “The videos show the unbelievable violence and the inexcusable cruelty that you all faced, and people need to know the truth…We cannot leave the violence of January 6th – and its causes – uninvestigated.” She added, “IF Congress does not act responsibly, this will remain a cancer on our Constitutional Republic…We will face the threat of more violence in the months to come, and another January 6th every four years.”

Cheney made clear that she’s been a conservative Republican since 1984 and disagrees on policy sharply with Democrats. But she made clear, “In the end, we are one nation under God. The framers of our Constitution recognized the danger of the vicious factionalism of partisan politics…When a threat to our constitutional order arises, as it has here, we are obligated to rise above politics.”

She then stated, “We must enforce subpoenas promptly,” adding pointedly, “No member of Congress should now attempt to defend the indefensible, obstruct the investigation or whitewash what happened that day…Our children will know who stood for truth, and they will inherit the nation we hand t them – a Republic, if we can keep it.”