US Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, Law Enforcers Call Out January 6 Capital Crimes
The House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob held its first hearing last Tuesday, with emotional testimony from four law enforcement officers who defended the building that day and fought to repel rioters: U.S. Capitol Police Private First Class Harry Dunn (above) testified that he was assaulted and called racial slurs during the mob attack; (in photobelow) Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, an Iraqui war veteran, said he was beaten with a flagpole; Michael Fanone, Officer for the Metropolitan Police Department revealed he was “tortured,” dragged, tased and suffered a heart attack and a brain injury; Daniel Hodges, Officer for the Metropolitan Police Department, crushed in a doorway, called the violent mob, “terrorists”.
Dunn testified, “There was an attack carried out on January 6th, and a hit man sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that.” In addition to these attacks, the insurrectionists claimed the lives of five people. (Photos: Image of Dunn (Credit Image: © Chip Somodevilla-Pool/CNP via ZUMA Press Wire)); Inset of group ((Credit Image: © Jim Loscalzo – Pool Via Cnp/CNP via ZUMA Press Wire))
Excerpts of testimonies from Dunn, Fanone, Gonell and Hodges, plus key responses from members of the House investigating panel, including Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).
Truth and Safeguards
“Telling the truth shouldn’t be hard. Fighting on Jan. 6 — that was hard.
Showing up Jan. 7 — that was hard.” -Officer Harry Dunn, U.S Capitol Police
“What makes the struggle harder and more painful is to know so many of my fellow citizens, including so many of the people I put my life at risk to defend, are downplaying or outright denying what happened.”
- Officer Michael Fanone, Metropolitan Police Department
Officers who defended the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection offered powerful and often emotional testimony before lawmakers on Tuesday, recounting scenes of chaos, violence and destruction as the House select committee kicked off its investigation into the insurrection.
The civil and somber hearing marked the first meeting of the select committee to investigate the day’s events, a panel with just two Republicans after the party’s leaders — allied with former President Trump — decided to boycott the investigation altogether.
The four police officers on the stand described fearing for their lives as they were overwhelmed by the sheer size of the pro-Trump mob — and how many of them are still suffering from physical and emotional trauma more than six months later.
Aquilino Gonell, a Capitol Police sergeant and Army veteran, recounted how he and other officers trying to fight off the rioters were punched, kicked, sprayed with chemical irritants and beaten with flagpoles.
“On Jan. 6, for the first time, I was more afraid working at the Capitol than during my entire Army deployment to Iraq. In Iraq, we expected armed violence, because 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,” Gonell said.
The officers seethed at the GOP lawmakers and Trump defenders who have tried to minimize the severity of the day’s violence, like one House Republican who compared it to a “normal tourist visit.”
“The indifference being shown to my colleagues is disgraceful!” said Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone as he slammed his fist on the table.
“My law enforcement career prepared me to cope with some of the aspects of this experience,” said Fanone, whose image was captured in the melee as he was surrounded by rioters and shocked repeatedly with his own stun gun.
“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.”
Gonell said some lawmakers’ subsequent attempts to whitewash the events of Jan. 6 have diminished the sacrifice officers made on that day.
“We were all fighting for our lives to give them — to give you guys — a chance to go home to your family, to escape. And now the same people who 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.
Trump’s comments on both Jan. 6 and afterward praising the attendees at his rally ahead of the riot were seized on by lawmakers. Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), one of the two Republicans on the panel, asked about the former president’s claim that the crowd that day was “loving.”
“It’s upsetting. It’s 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,” Gonell said.
Gonell sustained injuries on both hands, as well as his left shoulder, left calf and right foot, after fighting off the mob. He said he’s been on medical and administrative leave for most of the past six months and expects to need further physical rehabilitation for possibly more than a year.
“To me it’s insulting, its demoralizing, because everything that we did was to prevent everyone in the Capitol from getting hurt and what he was doing — 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.”
Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who is Black, shared accounts of rioters repeatedly screaming racial slurs at him — the first time he had experienced that while in uniform.
But he said the day’s events differed from the numerous MAGA events he had patrolled before.
“They had marching orders, so to say. When people feel emboldened by people in power they assume that they’re right,” he said.
“One of the scariest things about Jan. 6 is that the people that were there even to this day think that they were right. They think that they were right, and that makes for a scary recipe for the future of this country.”
Metropolitan Police Department Officer Daniel Hodges, who was captured in a viral video showing him being crushed by rioters and stripped of his gas mask when trapped in a doorway, encouraged the committee to specifically target those in power who may have aided those who stormed the Capitol and who are beyond the reach of police.
“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. Because we can’t do it. We’re not allowed to,” he said.
The hearing further underscored the lingering emotional trauma more than six months after the deadly attack on the Capitol.
The police officers on the stand and lawmakers on the dais alike struggled to contain tears at times.
Gonell said that his wife and relatives frantically tried to reach him as they watched the terror unfold on television, but he wasn’t able to answer their messages until hours later “to let my own family know that I was alive.”
When he finally returned home around 4 a.m., he said, “I had to push my wife away from me because she wanted to hug me. And I told her no, because of all of the chemicals that my uniform had on.”
Gonell then teared up and paused to collect himself. “Sorry,” he said, wiping his eyes with a tissue.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), an Air Force veteran, began his round of questioning by telling the police officers that they “won” despite perhaps feeling “a little broken” by the trauma they’ve suffered.
“You guys won. You guys held,” Kinzinger said, fighting back tears. “You know, democracies are not defined by our bad days. We’re defined by how we come back from bad days.”
Moments later, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the panel who also chairs the House Intelligence Committee, became emotional after asking Dunn about his experience being called a “n—–” by the mostly white crowd of rioters donning Trump campaign gear.
“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. If we deem elections illegitimate merely because they didn’t go our way, rather than trying to do better the next time, then God help us. And if we’re so driven by bigotry and hate that we attack our fellow citizens as traitors if they were born in another country or they don’t look like us—” Schiff said, stopping as he struggled to maintain his composure.
After a full 12 seconds, Schiff said again: “God help us.”
“But I have faith because of folks like you,” Schiff told Dunn.
It was the first hearing before the nine-member panel, comprised of seven Democrats and two Republicans.
Below are some quotes from Tuesday’s hearing.
COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN BENNIE THOMPSON
“Some people are trying to deny what happened. To whitewash it… Let’s be clear. The rioters who tried to rob us of our democracy were propelled here by a lie.”
REPUBLICAN REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY
“If those responsible are not held accountable, and if Congress does not act responsibly, this will remain a cancer on our constitutional republic.”
REPUBLICAN COMMITTEE MEMBER ADAM KINZINGER
“We still don’t know exactly what happened. Why? Because many in my party have treated this as just another partisan fight. It’s toxic, and it’s a disservice to the officers and their families, for the staff and the employees on the Capitol complex, to the American people who deserve to truth, and to those generations before us who went to war to defend self-governance. Because self-governance is at stake.”
U.S. CAPITOL POLICE OFFICER AQUILINO GONELL
“The rioters called me a ‘traitor,’ a ‘disgrace,’ and shouted that I (an Army veteran and police officer) should be ‘executed.’
“What we were subjected to that day was like something from a medieval battlefield. 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.
“After order finally had been restored at the Capitol and after many exhausting hours, I arrived home at nearly 4 a.m. on January 7. I had to push away my wife from hugging me because of all the chemicals that covered my body,” Gonell said, fighting back tears. “I couldn’t sleep because the chemicals reactivated after I took a shower, and my skin was still burning.”
“As an immigrant to the United States, I am especially proud to have defended the U.S. Constitution and our democracy on Jan. 6.”
METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICER MICHAEL FANONE
“I was grabbed, beaten, tased, all while being called a traitor to my country. I was at risk of being stripped of and killed with my own firearm.
“I was electrocuted again and again and again with a taser. I’m sure I was screaming but I don’t think I could hear even my own voice.
“The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful,” Fanone said, raising his voice and pounding the table.
CAPITOL POLICE OFFICER HARRY DUNN
“One woman in a pink ‘MAGA’ shirt yelled, ‘You hear that, guys, this nigger voted for Joe Biden!’ Then the crowd, perhaps around 20 people, joined in, screaming ‘Boo! Fucking nigger!’ No one had ever – ever – called me a ‘nigger’ while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer.
“Thankfully, at the moment, it didn’t hinder me from doing my job. But once I was able to process it, it hurt. …
“There was an attack carried out on Jan. 6 and a hit man sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that,” Dunn said.
METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICER DANIEL HODGES
“Terrorists pushed through the line and engaged us in hand-to-hand combat. Several attempted to knock me over and steal my baton. One latched onto my face and got his thumb in my right eye, attempting to gouge it out. I cried out in pain and managed to shake him off before any permanent damage was done.
“I couldn’t engage anyone fully for the moment I do is when another 20 terrorists move in to attack while I am occupied. It’s all we could do to keep ourselves on our feet and continue to fall back. I’m sprayed with a fire extinguisher and a red smoke grenade burned at our feet. …”
“If that’s what American tourists are like, I can see why foreign countries don’t like American tourists …”
“If, especially with the razor-thin margins on Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, if any single one person was kidnapped or killed – which I had no doubt in my mind is what they intended – that would affect the outcome of legislation and all your duties for years to come.”
DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE MEMBER ADAM SCHIFF
“If we’re no longer committed to a peaceful transfer of power for elections if our side doesn’t win, then God help us.”
DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE MEMBER JAMIE RASKIN
“You will be remembered as heroes to our country, along with your fellow officers, and those who attacked you and those who beat you are fascist traitors to our country and will be remembered forever as fascist traitors.”