Capitol riot committee holds first hearing

By Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha, Mike Hayes, Meg Wagner, Maureen Chowdhury and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 7:48 p.m. ET, July 27, 2021
32 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
4:34 p.m. ET, July 27, 2021

Officer at Capitol on Jan. 6: Rioters were saying "Trump sent us"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Chip Somodevilla/Pool/AP
Chip Somodevilla/Pool/AP

Former President Trump's remarks about the "loving" crowd that gathered for his speech before the Capitol insurrection are "insulting," Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell told the House select committee.

"It is a pathetic excuse for his behavior, for something that he himself helped to create this monstrosity. I'm still recovering from those 'hugs and kisses' that day that he claimed that so many rioters — terrorists — were assaulting us that day," Gonell said in response to a question from GOP Rep. Liz Cheney.

"To me, it is insulting, it is demoralizing because everything that we did was to prevent everyone in the capitol from getting hurt," the officer said.

Gonell said instead of telling his supporters clearly to stop their behavior from the beginning, he "egged them" on to keep fighting.

"I was in the lower west terrace fighting alongside these officers, and all of them (rioters), all of them were telling us 'Trump sent us,'" Gonell said.

"It was not Antifa, it was not or Black Lives [Matter], it was not the FBI; it was his supporters that he sent them over to the Capitol that day. And he could have done a lot of things. One of them was to tell them to stop. He talks about sacrificing, sacrifices; well now, the only thing that he has sacrificed is the institutions of the country and the country itself only for his ego," Gonell said.

11:43 a.m. ET, July 27, 2021

Police officer recounts violence at the Capitol, including officer who had to have tip of finger removed 

From CNN's Elise Hammond

One officer had to have the tip of his finger removed, another was shocked with a cattle prod, and another was hit in the head so hard, he is still out of medical leave, DC Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges said, citing just a few examples of violence he witnessed first-hand on the day of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

During his testimony at a select committee on Tuesday, Hodges said one of his sergeants was struck by one of the rioters and fractured his finger. Instead of leaving, he wrapped it up in tape and a napkin and continued to fight for several more hours before finally accepting a medical evacuation.

"He just put some tape on it and a napkin and went back to work," Hodges said. "He ended up having to have the tip of his finger removed."

Another officer, Hodges said, was hit in the head by a "large heavy object" that was thrown at them. He has not returned to work, "but at the time he was still fighting," Hodges said.

He recounts another officer, who was soaked with spray, was shocked "several times" by a cattle prod one of the rioters brought with them.

"I know that another officer found a Capitol Police officer was being dragged out into the crowd and he was unable to signal to us what was going on. So he charged in there by himself and got that officer back out of there and in the process, hyper-extended his knee and took several other injuries," he said.

11:42 a.m. ET, July 27, 2021

DC police officer says he was assaulted with his own gas mask by a Capitol rioter

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Jim Bourg/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Bourg/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

DC Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges said he was beaten with his own gas mask on Jan. 6.

At one point, with his arms pinned and trapped between a shield and door frame, Hodges said a rioter bashed his head with a huge mob behind him.

"Directly in front of me, a man seized the opportunity of my vulnerability to grab the front of my gas mask and used it beat my head against the door," he said while testifying about the Capitol riot before the House select committee.

"He never uttered any words I recognized but opted instead for guttural screams. I remember him foaming at the mouth. He also put his cell phone in the mouth so that he had both hands free to assault me," Hodges said.

Hodges said he screamed for help and an officer was able to assist him out of the mob.

The officer repeatedly called the rioters "terrorists" during his testimony.

Earlier in the day on Jan. 6, Hodges said rioters called the officers traitors and mocked their numbers.

"As we came close to the terrorists, our line was divided and we came under attack. A man attempted to rip the baton from my hands. ... He yelled at me 'You're on the wrong team,'" Hodges said.

"One of the terrorists who had scaled the scaffolding that adorned the Capitol at the time threw something heavy down at me and struck me in the head, disorienting me. I suspect this resulted in the likely concussion I dealt with in the weeks after," he said.

There were also many flags in the crowd, he said, including American, pro-Trump and religious flags.

"To my perpetual confusion, I saw the thin blue line flag, the symbol of support for law enforcement more than once being carried by the terrorists as they ignored our commands and continued to assault us," he added.  

Hodges described the fight as a "chaotic melee" with chemical sprays hanging thick in the air.

"One latched on to my face and got his thumb in my right eye, attempting to gouge it out. I cried out in pain, managed to shake him off. Managed to shake him off before any permanent damage was done," he said.

Hodges called the frontline a "meat grinder."

"The terrorists had a wall of shields that they had stolen from officers as well as stolen batons and whatever other armaments they brought. Even during this contest of wills, they tried to convert us to their cult," Hodges said.

2:09 p.m. ET, July 27, 2021

US Capitol police officer recounts rioters calling him the N-word during Jan. 6 insurrection

Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool/Getty Images
Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool/Getty Images

US Capitol police officer Harry Dunn said that he confronted rioters who had breached the building. "I told them to just leave the Capitol and in response they yelled, no, man, this is our house," he said.

Dunn said the rioters told him, "President Trump invited us here. We're here to stop the steal. Joe Biden is not the president. Nobody voted for Joe Biden." 

Dunn said that as a law enforcement officer he tries to keep politics out of his job, but in the heat of the moment, he responded: "I voted for Joe Biden. Does my vote not count? Am I nobody?"

He said at that point, one woman in pink yelled, "did you hear that, guys, that [N-word] voted for Joe Biden." He said that others joined in and yelled remarks like, "Boo! F**king [N-word]."

Dunn said that after Jan. 6, other Black officers shared with their experiences with him. He said one officer told him he never in his 40 years of life had been called the N-word and "that streak ended on January 6th."

Another Black officer told Dunn he had been confronted by insurrectionists in the Capitol that told him to "put your gun down, and we will show you what kind of [N-word] you really are."

Later in the hearing while he was questioned by committee members, Dunn said that he wasn't able to fully process the attack and the racial nature of the attack until later.

"I think that's in the rotunda where I became so emotional because I was able to process everything that happened, and it was just so overwhelming and it's so disheartening and disappointing that we live in a country with people like that, that attack you because of the color of your skin, just to hurt you. Those words are weapons. Thankfully, at the moment it didn't hinder me from doing my job. But once I was able to process it, it hurt, it hurt just reading it now. And just thinking about it. That people demonize you because of the color of your skin when my blood is red, I'm an American citizen, I'm a police officer, I'm a peace officer, I'm here to defend this country, defend everybody in this building," Dunn said.

Watch US Capitol police officer Harry Dunn's account:

11:10 a.m. ET, July 27, 2021

Some Republicans have tried to falsely paint the Jan. 6 events as a "peaceful protest." Here's the truth. 

From CNN's Holmes Lybrand, Tara Subramaniam and Janie Boschma

The House Select Committee investigating the events of Jan. 6 convened for the first time, and it did so against a backdrop of Republican objections and falsehoods.

Four police officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6 are testifying now before the House select committee about what they witnessed that day and the harm they experienced.

The false narratives about the events of Jan. 6 have evolved over the past few months, with different politicians adding new, more wild conspiracy theories to the mix and trying to use congressional hearings meant to investigate the riot instead to promote their rewriting of history.

Some Republicans have tried to paint the events of Jan. 6 as mostly peaceful except for a few bad apples.

One of the biggest promoters of the idea that the riot was actually a largely peaceful event is Ron Johnson, the only Republican senator who has been an outspoken denier of the Jan. 6 events.

In a May 19 Fox News interview, Johnson called the Capitol attack a "peaceful protest."

“Even calling it an insurrection, it wasn’t. I condemned the breach, I condemned the violence, but to say there were thousands of armed insurrectionists breaching the Capitol intent on overthrowing the government is just simply a false narrative. … By and large it was peaceful protest except for, there were a number of people basically agitators that whipped the crowd and breached the Capitol.”

Facts First: Johnson's attempt to downplay the insurrection is obvious nonsense; the attack on the Capitol was anything but peaceful. Trump supporters did bring and used weapons during the riot.

Echoing Johnson, GOP Rep. Andrew Clyde made one of the most egregious comparisons to downplay the riot, suggesting many members of the mob looked like regular tourists.

In a May during a congressional hearing, Clyde claimed the attack looked like a "normal tourist visit."

“Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures. You know, if you didn't know the TV footage was a video from January the sixth, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”

Facts First: Clyde is referring to one moment after the rioters broke into the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall. Other footage of Jan. 6, however, shows rioters beating a police officer with a flagpole, as well as using police shields to smash through windows and clambering over the Capitol walls — not typical tourist behavior.

Read more fact checks debunking false narratives surrounding Jan. 6 here.

11:15 a.m. ET, July 27, 2021

Officer Dunn calls for moment of silence for fallen officer Sicknick 

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

US Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn began his opening remarks by asking those in the committee room to hold a moment of silence for fallen US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.

"I would like to take a moment of my time to ask for a moment of silence for my fallen colleague, officer Brian Sicknick, who died from injuries he sustained in the line of duty defending the Capitol of our beloved democracy," Dunn said.

Watch:

10:43 a.m. ET, July 27, 2021

"I went to hell and back to protect them": Officer slams lawmakers who downplay Jan. 6 insurrection

From CNN's Elise Hammond

The Jan. 6 insurrection "didn't have anything to do with political parties," DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone said during testimony at the select committee hearing, adding those who are denying what happened that day "betray their oath of office."

"I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room, but too many are now telling me that hell doesn't exist, or that hell actually wasn't that bad. The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful," Fanone said, slamming his fist on the table.

He said his job is to serve and protect lawmakers and the public and nothing could have prepared him for the aftermath of that day.

"Being an officer you know your life is at risk whenever you walk out of the door, even if you don't expect otherwise law-abiding citizens to take up arms against you," he said. "But nothing – truly nothing – has addressed the elected members of our government that continue to deny the events of that day, and in doing so, betray their oath of office. Those very members whose lives, offices, staff members, I was fighting so desperately to defend."

He said he agreed to testify at the hearing and talk publicly about what happened because he thinks the response going forward should be nonpartisan.

"I know that what my partner Jimmy and I suited up for on January 6th didn't have anything to do with political parties or about politics or what political party any of you public servants belong to," Fanone said.

"I've worked in the city for two decades and I've never cared about those things no matter who was in office. All I've ever cared about is protecting you, and the public. So you could do your job and in service to this country and for those whom you represent," he added.

10:59 a.m. ET, July 27, 2021

DC police officer: I pleaded with rioters "I've got kids"

Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool/AP
Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool/AP

DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone said that he was attacked by rioters and "electrocuted again and again and again with a taser." 

"I'm sure I was screaming but I don't think I could even hear my own voice," Fanone said.

He said that his body camera captured the violence of the crowd directed toward him on Jan. 6.

"It's an important part of the record for this committee's investigation and for the country's understanding of how I was assaulted and nearly killed as the mob attacked the Capitol that day," he said.

He called the video "essential" for the record of what happened during the insurrection.

During the attack, Fanone said he thought his four daughters would lose their dad.

While he was being attacked, Fanone said, he attempted to "appeal to any humanity" that the rioters might have.  

"I said as loud as I could manage 'I've got kids.' Thankfully some in the crowd stepped in and assisted me," Fanone said.

He said after he was pulled out, he was taken to the hospital and was told by a physician that he suffered a heart attack.

"And I was later diagnosed with a concussion, a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder," the officer said.

"As my physical injuries subsided and the adrenalin that stayed with me for weeks waned, I've been left with the psychological trauma and the emotional anxiety of having survived such a horrific event. And my children continue to deal with the trauma of nearly losing their dad that day," he continued

Watch:

10:52 a.m. ET, July 27, 2021

Officer at Capitol on Jan. 6: I kept thinking "this is how I'm going to die" 

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

US Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell recounted being crushed by rioters on Jan. 6 and implored lawmakers to investigate the insurrection.

"It is imperative that the events of Jan. 6 are fully investigated in the Congress and the American people know the truth of what actually occurred and that all of those responsible are held accountable, particularly to ensure the horrific and shameful event in our history never repeats itself," Gonell said during the House select committee's first hearing.

Gonell said that while growing up in the Dominican Republic, he looked up to the US as the "land of opportunity and a place to better myself." He said that from the moment he landed in the US in 1992, he "tried to pursue that goal."  

"I was the first in my family to graduate college, join the Army and become a police officer. On July 23, 1999, the day before my 21st birthday, I raised my hand and swore to protect the Constitution of the United States. Because this country gave me an opportunity to become anything that I wanted," he said. 

Gonell, an Iraq War veteran, said that on Jan. 6, "I was more afraid to work at the Capitol than in my entire deployment to Iraq. In Iraq, we were in a war zone. But nothing in my experience in the army or as a law enforcement officer prepared me for what we confronted on Jan. 6."

He described the struggle to defend the Capitol building on Jan. 6, saying rioters had chemical sprays, knives, tactical gear and police shields taken from officers. They were saying "Trump sent us. Pick the right side," he said.

"To be honest, I do not recognize my fellow citizens who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 or the United States that they claim to represent," Gonell said.

Gonell said he and other officers were punched, cursed at, threatened and crushed by the rioters. 

"I fell on top of some police shields on the ground that were slippery because [of] the pepper spray and bear spray. Rioters immediately began to pull me by my leg, by my shield, by my gear strap on my left shoulder. My survival instincts kicked in and I started kicking and punching as I tried to get the officer's attention behind me. They could not help me because they also were being attacked. I finally was able to hit the rioter who was grabbing me with my baton and was able to stand. Then I continued to fend off new attackers as they kept rotating in, attacking us again and again. What we were subjected that day was like something from a medieval battle," he said.

"I can remember losing oxygen and thinking to myself 'this is how I'm going to die, defending this entrance,'" he said.

Gonell became visibly emotional during his statement.

When he got home at nearly 4 a.m. on Jan. 7, he said he could not hug his wife because of all the chemicals on his uniform. He was back to work later that morning, and he worked for 15 consecutive days to continue defending the Capitol. He said he continues to recover from injuries, six months later.

"We are not asking for medals, recognition; we simply want justice and accountability. For most people, Jan. 6 happened for a few hours. But for those of us who were in the thick of it, it has not ended. That day continues to be a constant trauma for us literally every day," Gonell said.

Watch Sgt. Gonell's opening remarks: