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CNN Live Event/Special
Investigating the Insurrection: Officers Who Protected Capitol on January 6 Give Opening Statements; Frontline Officers Give Firsthand Accounts of Capitol Riot. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired July 27, 2021 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SGT. AQUILINO GONELL, U.S. CAPITOL OFFICER: The verbal assaults and disrespect we endure from the rioters were bad enough. I was falsely accused of betraying my oath of choosing my paycheck, choosing my paycheck over the loyalty to the U.S. Constitution. Here as I defended the very democratic process that protected everyone with the hostile crowd.
While I was at the lowest terrace of the Capitol working with my fellow officers to prevent the breach and restore order, the rioters called me traitor, a disgrace and shouted that I, I, an Army veteran and a police officer, should be executed.
Some of the rioters had the audacity to tell me that it was nothing personal, that they would go through me, through us, police officers, to achieve their goal as they were breaking metal barriers to use as a weapon against us.
Other used more menacing language. If you shoot us, we all have weapons, we will shoot back, or we'll get our guns, we outnumber you, they say, join us.
I heard specific threats to the lives of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then also Vice President Mike Pence. But the physical violence we experienced was horrific and devastating. My fellow officers and I were punched, kicked, shoved, sprayed with chemical irritants and even blinded with eye-damaging lasers by a violent mob apparently who saw us, law enforcement, officers dedicated to ironically protecting them as U.S. citizens, as an impediment to their attempt of insurrection.
The mob drew weapons to try to accomplish the insurrectionist objectives and used them against us. These weapons included hammers, rebar, knives, baton and police shields taken by force, as well as bear spray and pepper spray. Some of the riots wore tactical gear, including bulletproof vests and gas masks. The rioter also forcibly took our batons and shields to use them against us.
I was particularly shocked at the scene the insurrectionists violently attacked us you with the very American flag that they claim to -- sought to protect. Based on the coordinating tactics that we observed and verbal commands we heard, it appears that many of these attackers had law enforcement and military experience.
The rioters were vicious and relentless. We find ourselves in a violent battle desperate to attempt to prevent a breach of the Capitol by the immigration stage. Metropolitan Police officers were being pulled into the crowd. We have one right here, right next to me.
As we try to push the rioters back from the breach in the Capitol, in my attempt to assist two MPD officers, I grabbed one officer by the back of the collar and pulled him back to the police line.
When I tried to help the second officer, I fell on top of some police shields on 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 U.S. strap on my left shoulder.
My survival instincts kicked and I started kicking and punching as I tried in bane to get MPD officer attention behind and above me, but 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 able to stand and then I continued to fend off new attackers as they kept rotating and attacking us again and again.
What we were subjected to that day was like something from a medieval battle. We fought hand-to-hand, inch-by-inch to prevent an invasion of the Capitol by a violent mob intent on subverting our democratic process.
My fellow officers and were committed to not letting any riots breach the Capitol.
It was a prolonged and desperate struggle that rioters attempted to breach the Capitol were shouting, Trump sent us. Pick the right side. We want Trump.
I heard officers screaming in agony, in pain just along the left of me. I didn't know at that time, but that was Officer Hodges, and he's here today to testify. I too was being crushed by the rioters. I can feel myself losing oxygen and recall, thinking to myself, this is how I'm going to die, defending this entrance.
Many of the officers fighting alongside me were calling for shields because their shields have been stripped from them by the rioters. I was one of the few officers left with a shield, so I spent the majority of my time at the front of the line.
I later find out that my wife and relatives were here in the U.S. and abroad were frantically calling and texting me from 2:00 P.M. onwards because they were watching the turmoil on television.
It was now 4:26 P.M. after giving CPR to one of the rioters who breached the Capitol in an effort to save her life that I finally had a chance let my own family know I was alive.
After order has finally -- has been restored at the Capitol and many hours, I arrived at home nearly 4:00 A.M. on January 7th. I had to push my wife away from me because she wanted to hug me. And I told her no because all the chemical that I -- my uniform we had on. Sorry.
I couldn't sleep because the chemical reactivated after I took a shower and my skin was burning. I finally fell asleep two hours later completely physically and mentally exhausted. Yet by 8:00 A.M., I was already back on, my way back to the Capitol. And I continued to work for 15 consecutive days until after the inauguration. I made sure to work despite my injuries because I wanted to continue doing my job and help secure the Capitol complex.
More than six months later, I'm still trying to recover from my injuries. Many of my fellow Capitol officers, as well as MPD officers, suffered several physical injuries from the violence inflicted on us on January 6th. I sustained injuries on both my hands, my left shoulder, my left calf and my right foot. I already had begun bone fusion surgery on my right foot and I was just told that I need surgery on my left shoulder. I've been on medical and administrative leave for much of the past six months and I expect to need further rehabilitation for possibly more than a year.
There are some who expressed outrage when someone kneels while calling for social justice. Where are the same people expressing the outrage to condemn the violence attack on law enforcement, the Capitol, in our American democracy? I'm still waiting for them.
As American and the world watch in horror of what was happening at the Capitol, we did not receive timely reinforcement and support we needed.
In contrast, during the Black Lives Matter protests last year, U.S. Capitol Police had all the support we needed and more. Why the different response, why not for the brave members of the MPD and later on from other law enforcement agencies? I'm afraid to think what could have happened on January 6th.
I want to publicly thank all of the law enforcement agencies that responded to assist that day for the courage and their support. I especially want to thank those Capitol Police officer who responded on their own from home after working the night shift.
Despite being outnumbered, we did our job. Every member of the House of Representatives, senators and staff members made it home. Sadly, as a result of that day, we lost officers, some really good officers, but we held the line to protect our democratic process because the alternative would have been a disaster. We are not asking for medals, recognition, we simply want justice and accountability.
For most people, January 6th happened for a few hours. Before, for those of us who were in the thick of it, it has not ended. That day continued to be a constant trauma for us literally every day, whether because of our physical or emotional injuries or both, why it has not received much attention, sadly, many of my colleagues have quietly resigned from the Capitol because of that day.
I'm also regularly called by law enforcement officials and prosecutors to help identify from photograph and videos, the rioters.
And, to be honest, physical therapy is painful and hard. I could have lost my life that day, not once, but many times. But as soon as I recovered from my injuries, I will continue forward and proudly serve my country in the U.S. Capitol Police.
As an immigrant to the United States, I'm especially proud to have defended the U.S. Constitution and our democracy on January 6th. Everyone in the position of authority in our country has the courage and conviction to do their part by investigating what happened on that terrible day and why.
This investigation is essential to our democracy and I'm deeply grateful to you for undertaking it. I'll be happy to assist as I can and answer any question you may have to the best of my ability. Thank you.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Thank you very much for your riveting testimony, Sergeant Gonell.
I now recognize Officer Fanone to summarize his testimony.
OFFICER MICHAEL FANONE, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of this committee, for inviting me to provide my eyewitness testimony of the violent assault on our nation's Capitol on January 6, 2021.
My name, for those of you who don't know, is Michael Fanone. And while I've been a sworn officer with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., for almost two decades, my law enforcement career actually began here in this building as a United States Capitol Police officer shortly after 9/11, in part because of the 2001 attack on our country by terrorists, I felt called to serve.
As a Capitol Police officer, I was proud to protect this institution and dedicated members of Congress and their staff who work hard each day to uphold our American democracy. I remain proud of the work of the United States Capitol Police and MPD officers who literally commit their lives to protecting the safety of each of you and all of us in this room in our nation's Capitol.
After leaving the United States Capitol Police, I became an MPD officer servicing the residents of Washington, D.C. I had spent the majority of my nearly 20 years as a Metropolitan Police officer working in special mission units whose responsibilities include the investigation and arrest of narcotics traffickers and violent criminals.
I've worked both as an undercover officer and the lead case officer in many of these investigations.
In this line of work, it probably wouldn't shock to you know that I've dealt with some dicey situations. I thought I'd seen it all many times over. Yet what I witnessed and experienced on January 6, 2021, was unlike anything I had ever seen, anything I had ever experienced or could have imagined in my country. On that day, I participated in the defense of the United States Capitol from an armed mob, an armed mob of thousands determined to get inside.
Because I was among the vastly outnumbered group of law enforcement officers protecting the Capitol and the people inside it, 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 as I heard chants of, kill him with his own gun. I could still hear those words in my head today.
Although I regularly deal with risky situations on the job, nowhere in my wildest imagine did I ever expect to be in that situation or sitting here before you talking about it. That experience and its aftermath were something that not even my extensive law enforcement training could prepare me for.
I was just one of hundreds of local police who lined up to protect the Congress even though I had not been assigned to do that. Some had asked why we ran to help when we didn't have to. I did that because I simply could not ignore what was happening.
Like many other officers, I could not ignore the numerous calls, numerous calls for help coming from the Capitol complex. I'm a plain clothed officer assigned to the first district's crime suppression team. But for the first time in nearly a decade, I put on my uniform.
When my partner, Jimmy Albright and I, arrived at the Capitol around 3:00 that afternoon, it was unlike -- excuse me, it was unlike any scene I had ever witnessed. Jimmy parked our police vehicle near the intersection of South Capitol Street and D. Street in southeast and we walked to the Capitol, from there passing the Longworth House Office building. It was eerily quiet and the sidewalks, usually filled with pedestrians, were empty.
As we made our way to Independence Avenue, I could see dozens of empty police vehicles that filled the street, police barricades which had been abandoned and hundreds of angry protesters, many of whom taunted us as we walked towards the Capitol building.
Jimmy and I immediately began to search for an area where we could be of most assistance. We made our way through a door on the south side of the Capitol, walking then to the crypt and finally down to the lower west terrace tunnel. It is there that I observed a police commander struggling to breathe as he dealt with the effects of C.S. gas that lingered in the air. Then I watched him collect himself, straightened his cap and trench coat adorned with its silver eagles and returned to the line.
That commander was Ramey Kyle of the Metropolitan Police Department and those images are etched in my memory never to be forgotten. In the midst of that intense and chaotic scene, Commander Kyle remained cool, calm and collected as he gave commands to his officers, hold the line, he shouted over the roar. Of course, that day the line was the seat of our American government, despite the confusion and stress of the situation, observing Ray's leadership, protecting a place I cared so much about, was the most inspirational moment of my life. The bravery he and others showed that day are the best examples of duty, honor and service.
Each of us who carries a badge should bring those core values to our work every day. The fighting in the lower west terrace tunnel was nothing short of brutal. Here, I observed approximately 30 police officers standing shoulder to shoulder, maybe four or five abreast, using the weight of their bodies to hold back the onslaught of violent attackers. Many of these officers were injured, bleeding and fatigued but they continued to hold the line.
As I don't have to tell the members in this room, the tunnel is a narrow and long hallway.
It is not the sort of space anyone would want to be pulled into hand- to-hand combat with an angry mob. Although the narrowness of the hallway provided what was probably the only chance of holding back the crowd from entering your personal offices, the House and Senate chambers.
In an attempt to assist injured officers, Jimmy and I asked them if they needed a break. There were no volunteers. Selflessly, those officers only identified other colleagues who may be in need of assistance.
The fighting dragged on. I eventually joined the tactical line at the tunnel's entrance. I can remember looking around and being shocked by the sheer number of people fighting us. As my police body worn camera shows, thousands upon thousands of people seemingly determined to get past us by any means necessary.
At some point during the fighting, I was dragged from the line of officers and into the crowd. I heard someone scream, I got one. As I was swarmed by a violent mob, they ripped off my badge, they grabbed and striped me of my radio, they seized ammunition that was secured to my body. They began to beat me with their fists and with what felt like hard metal objects.
At one point, I came face-to-face with an attacker who repeatedly lunged for me and attempted to remove any firearm. I heard chanting from some in the crowd, get his gun and kill him with his own gun.
I was aware enough to recognize 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 don't think I could even hear my own voice.
My body camera captured the violence of the crowd directed toward me during those very frightening moments. It is 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 at Capitol that day. And I hope that everyone will be able to watch it.
The portions of the video I've seen remain extremely painful for me to watch at times but it is essential that everyone understands what really happened that tragic day.
During those moments, I remember thinking there was a very good chance I would be torn apart or shot to death with my own weapon. I thought of my four daughters what might lose their dad. I remain grateful that no member of Congress had to go through the violent assault that I experienced that day.
During the assault, I thought about using my firearm on my attackers but I knew that if I did, I would be quickly overwhelmed and that, in their minds, would provide them with the justification for killing me. So I instead decided to appeal to the -- any humanity they might have. I said as loud as I could managed, I've got kids.
Thankfully, someone in the crowd stepped in and assisted me. Those few individuals protected me from a crowd and inched me toward the Capitol until my fellow officers could rescue me. I was carried back inside.
What happened afterwards is much less vivid. I had been beaten unconscious and remained so for more than four minutes. I know that Jimmy helped to evacuate me from the building and drove me to Medstar Washington Hospital Center despite suffering significant injuries himself.
At the hospital, doctors told me that I had suffered a heart attack and I was later diagnosed with a concussion, a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
As my physical injuries gradually subsided and the adrenalin that had 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.
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. 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.
My law enforcement career prepared me to cope with some of the aspects of this experience. 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. But nothing, truly nothing has prepared me addressed those elected members of our government who 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. I agreed to speak here today and have talked publicly about what happened because I don't think our response to the insurrection should have anything to do with political parties.
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. 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 can do your job and in service to this country and for those whom you represent.
I appreciate your time and attention. I look forward to the committee's investigation and I'm hopeful with your commitment, we as country will confront the truth of what happened on January 6th and do what is necessary to make sure that this institution of our democracy never falls into the hands of a violent and angry mob.
We must also recognize the officers who responded that day, many unsolicited in their countless acts of bravery and selflessness. It has been 202 days since 850 MPD officers responded to the Capitol and helped stop a violent insurrection from taking over this Capitol complex, which almost certainly saved countless members of Congress and their staff from injury and possibly death. The time to fully recognize these officers is now.
Thank you again for the opportunity to provide my testimony here today.
THOMPSON: Thank you very much for your testimony. And I don't think there is any question that you have our commitment to that we will do just that as a committee.
FANONE: Thank you, sir.
THOMPSON: I know recognize Officer Hodges to summarize his testimony.
OFFICER DANIEL HODGES, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: Good morning to the committee, members of the press and of the country. To the members of committee I'd like to thank you for your invitation to provide my account of my knowledge and experiences from January 6th, 2021.
As the chairman mentioned, I'm a member of Civil Disturbance Unit 42 and is working in that capacity on the day in question. We started that day at 7:30 A.M., and our assignment at the time was to maintain high visibility along Constitution Avenue, namely the blocks leading up to President's Park where then President Donald Trump was holding his gathering.
My particular station was in front of 1111 Constitution Avenue, where I stood on foot as the crowd poured down the street and into the park. There were significant number of men dressed in tactical gear attending the gathering, wearing ballistic vests, helmets, goggles, military face masks, backpacks and without identifiable or visible law enforcement or military patches, they appeared to be prepared much more than listening to politicians speak in the park.
Two of my colleagues were approached by a group of three to four of such men. They were white men in good shape with low-bearing vests equipped molly pouches. They were wearing BDU's, or battle dress uniform, pants, tactical boots, black sunglasses and short haircuts. They had radios and one was equipped with an earpiece.
After a bit of small talk, one of them asked my colleague something to the effect of, is this all of the manpower you have? Do you really think you're going to be able to stop all of these people? Dumbfounded, my colleague simply expressed they didn't understand what the speaker meant and the group continued on.
As the day went on and speakers in the park said their piece, I monitored the crowd on the radio. Over the radio, I heard our gun recovery unit working constantly, monitoring those in the crowd suspected of carrying firearms and making arrests and seizures when possible. Multiple gun arrests were made from January 5th through the 7th against those attending, likely had attended or planned to attend Donald Trump's gathering.
Unfortunately, due to the course of events that day, we will never know exactly who many were carrying firearms and other lethal weapons.