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CNN Live Event/Special

Investigating the Insurrection: Frontline Officers Give Firsthand Accounts of Capitol Riot; Officers Attacked at U.S. Capitol Testify at Insurrection Hearing. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired July 27, 2021 - 11:30   ET


OFFICER MICHAEL FANONE, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: And found himself commanding a group of about 30 or 40 officers there in the lower west terrace tunnel.


Commander Kyle was having a difficult time breathing. I remember I followed him back out through the set of double doors into that initial hallway as he kind of cleared himself, straightened himself up.

I described it before, I thought he looked like George Paton. I remember he put his hat back on and walked right back out through the doorway into the tunnel and I followed him. It was at that point that I think when I started approaching that group of officers there defending the doorway that I realized the gravity of the situation.

My initial thought was these guys look like -- they look beat to hell. And, you know, maybe I could try to get in there and get some guys some help. So I told Jimmy that we needed to get in there and try to offer assistance and that is what we did initially.

We started making our way through the crowd of officers, yelling out who needs a break. And like I said in my initial testimony, there were no volunteers. They were officers who identified other colleagues who were in need of help. And I remember somebody yelling out, this guy needs help, and handed me that officer, handed him off to Jimmy and told him to get him to the back. And I continued to make my way up to the frontlines.

Once I got up there, it was first time I really came face-to-face with these terrorists. They were dressed in, you know, clothing adorned with political slogans, Make America Great Again, Donald Trump 2020, things of that nature. They were wearing military-style clothing, Kevlar vests, Kevlar helmets, many of them had gas masks and quite a few had shields which they had taken away from law enforcement officers. And they were using them to beat us at the frontline.

The first thing I told them was, hey, man, we have to get these doors closed. We have got injured officers in here. And that really seemed to piss those guys off. They became incredibly violent and that is when that surge that you watched in some of the video began. And you had a large group at the mouth of that tunnel entrance trying to push their way through the officers who were fighting to defend it. And I believe had they done so or had they accomplished that, they would have trampled us to death. Most certainly, you would have had police officers killed.

I fought there at the front for some time. I was yelling out, you know, trying to inspire some of the other officers that were up there that were tired, telling them to dig in and push. And we started to make some progress. We pushed those guys out of the tunnel out through the initial thresh way, threshold and I remember thinking to myself, man, it is good to get some fresh air. It was at that point that I was pulled off the line.

That initial period of time where I was pulled, you know, off that line was kind of a blur. I just remember getting violently assaulted from every direction, and eventually found myself out probably about 250, maybe 300 feet away from the mouth of tunnel where the other officers were at. And I knew that I was in -- I was up shit creek without a paddle.

I was trying to push guys off of me to create some space all the while I recognized the fact that there were individuals that were trying to grab a hold of my gun. And I remember one of them distinctly lunge at me time and time again trying to grab my gun.


And I heard people in the crowd yelling, get his gun, kill him with his own gun and words to that effect.

I thought about using my weapon. I believed that there were individuals in the crowd whose intentions were to kill me. And I came to that conclusion because of the fact that separated from these other officers who were only trying to defend the Capitol, I no longer posed any type of threat, nor was I an impediment to them, you know, going inside of the building, but yet they tortured me, they beat me.

I was struck with a taser device at the base of my skull numerous times. And they continued to do so until I yelled out that I have kids. And I said that hoping to appeal to some of their -- some of those individuals' humanity. And, fortunately, a few did step in and intervene on my behalf. They did assist me back towards the mouth of the tunnel entrance and other officers were then able to rescue me and pull me back inside. But at that point, I was unconscious. And based off the body worn camera footage, it is believed that I was unconscious for approximately four minutes.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Thank you officer. And thanks to each one of you. Our country is lucky, really, blessed that you were as patriotic and brave as you are. I yield back, Mr. Chairman.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): The gentle lady yields back. The chair recognizes the gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Kinzinger, for however long he chooses.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you to my colleagues on committee. Thank you to our witnesses. I never expected today to be quite as emotional for me as it has been. I've talked to a number of you and gotten to know you. I think it is important to tell you right now, though, you guys may like individually feel a little broken because you all talked about the effects you have to deal with and you talk about the impact of that day, but you guys won. You guys held.

Democracies are not defined by our bad days. We're defined by how we come back from bad days, how we take accountability for that. And for all of the overheated rhetoric surrounding this committee, our mission is very simple. It is to find the truth and it is to ensure accountability.

Like most Americans, I'm frustrated that six months after a deadly insurrection breached the United States Capitol for several hours on live television, we still don't know exactly what happened. Why? Because many in my party have treated this as just another partisan fight. It is toxic and it is a disservice to the officers and their families, to the staff and the employees on the Capitol complex, to the American people who deserve the truth and to those generations before us who went to war to defend self-governance, because self- governance is at stake.

And that is why I agreed to service on this committee. I want to know what happened that day. But, more importantly, I want all Americans to be able to trust the work this committee does and get the facts out there free of conspiracy.

This cannot continue to be a partisan fight. I'm a Republican. I'm a conservative. But in order to heal from the damage caused that day, we need to call out the facts. It is time to stop the outrage and the conspiracies that fuel the violence and division in this country and most importantly, we need to reject those that promote it.

As a country, it is time to learn from our past mistakes, rebuild stronger so this never happens again and then we can move onward.

And serving on this committee I'm here to investigate January 6 not in spite of my membership in the Republican Party but because of it, not to win a political fight but to learn the facts and defend our democracy.

Here is what we know. Congress was not prepared on January 6th.


We weren't prepared because we never imagined that this could happen. An attack by our own people fostered and encouraged by those granted power through the very system that they sought to overturn. That is a lesson. That is not a conspiracy theory or a counternarrative. We don't blame victims. We go after the criminals.

Some have concocted a counternarrative to discredit this process on the grounds that we didn't launch a similar investigation into the urban riots and looting last summer. Mr. Chairman, I was called on to serve during the summer riots as an air national guardsman. I condemn those riots and destruction of property, but not once did I ever feel that the future of self-governance was threatened like I did on January 6th.

There is a difference between breaking the law and rejecting the rule of law between a crime, even grave crimes and a coup.

As we begin our work today, I want to call this committee as tension to the oath of office, not to a party, not to an individual but to the Constitution that represents all Americans.

Everyone in elected office knows how hard it could be sometimes to keep that oath, to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States in the forefront of our minds with the political pressures and re-elections always around the corner.

But Mr. Chairman, our witnesses today, like every law enforcement officer across the country took the same oath we did and on January 6th, the temptation to compromise those oaths didn't come in the form of a campaign check or a threat from leadership an all caps tweet. It came in the form of a violent mob.

While we on the dais were whisked away from the danger, heroes like those here stood their post before it and paid the price. And we are only here now because you guys were here then. Therefore, it is all together fitting that we begin our investigation of the January's lawless attack against the Constitution with these four men who made sure that the attack did not succeed, with those who helped to ensure that democracy held.

And think it is important to remember that you are four with stories but there are hundreds with stories as well that you represent where you sit.

Officer Fanone, I know your passion is to make sure that D.C. Metro gets the credit it is due. And I thank you for your -- I know that you represent the hundreds of officers, like Officer Hodges that responded to that call.

What I want to ask, does this feel like old history to any of the four of you? Sometimes I get we hear out there it is time to move on, right? It is been six whole months, time to move on. Does this feel like old history and time to move on? You can just say yes or no.

FANONE: No, sir.


OFFICER DANIEL HODGES, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: There can be no moving on without accountability. There can be no healing until we make sure this can't happen again.

OFFICER HARRY DUNN, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: I echo that. How do you move on without correcting what happened?

KINZINGER: Let me ask you all, what are the narratives out there, and, Officer Fanone, it triggered something in your testimony when you said it, so there has been this idea that this was not an armed insurrection, as if somehow that is justification for what happened. We know the hugs and kisses, we know that it was BLM and Antifa, right? Of course, then you would, I'm sure, want to investigate that if that is the case. Now we've heard maybe the FBI actually started this. But one of the ones that has always held was that this was not an armed insurrection.

Officer Dunn, you mentioned that those that stormed the Capitol were organized and trained and let me ask you and I'll ask actually to all four of you, and Officer Hodges, I know this was part of your job initially before you got -- responded to the Capitol. If in the middle of that melee, you see somebody with a gun in that crowd, would you be able to go out, apprehend, arrest them, read them their rights and go through that process or was the mission at the moment survival and defense of the Capitol?

So I'm asking is it possible that people maybe had guns? And we've seen that actually there were. But this idea that, well, people weren't arrested with guns, at the time this was raw survival. I'll start with -- we can just start on the left. Let me ask you, what is your response to that?

GONELL: For those people who continued to downplay this violent attack on our democracy, and officers, I suggest them to look at the videos and the footage right now.


Because common things were used as weapons, like a baseball bat, a hockey stick, a rebar, a flagpole, including the American flag, pepper spray, bear spray, so you name it. You had all of these items and things that were thrown at us and attacked and used to attack us. Those are weapons. No matter -- if it is a pen, the way that they were using these items, it was to hurt officers. It was to hurt police officers, that their intent was not to say, hey, let me go and find the Republicans or the Democrats in there, or the independents. It was every single body that was here in this building in the Capitol that their intent was to get them out and hurt them.

It had been a much different outcome had we not stopped them, especially at the lower west terrace entrance. Even though we -- at that time, we didn't know that that was the -- that there were other breaches in the Capitol. Our intent was to stop where it was trying to come in through that door. And those weapons that were used, those were common items from the way they were using it was as weapons.

KINZINGER: Let me ask and kind of my final moments, Sergeant Gonell, Officer Hodges, you were Virginia guardsman, I believe, fellow guardsman?

HODGES: Yes, sir.

KINZINGER: At any time in your service in the military, as you know I'm an air guardsman, and Sergeant Gonell, you specifically mentioned your time in Iraq. At any time in your military service, did you change how you defended the person that your left or right or how you trained on them based or their political affiliation, whether it was in war or anything?


GONELL: No, sir. The way I view it at that time, it was I'm an American and the person right next to me is an American. And I will do everything possible for me to defend him and the country at that time.

KINZINGER: You guys did that. You did that in the blue.

GONELL: Yes, sir.

KINZINGER: And I want to say that is the mission of this committee. We may have our deep differences on other policy issues but we are all Americans today and we thank you for that holding that line.

DUNN: Congressman, if I may, if I may respond to Congressman -- when you asked about the armed part, when the officers -- assumed officers showed me there what appeared to be a police badge, I don't know too many police officers and this is just me being a police officer for 13 years that carry their badge and don't carry a gun with them. So I looked, we look on their hips and you see a print. I didn't see that it was a gun, but a reasonable police officer would believe that that is a gun on their hip. So --

KINZINGER: And just to quickly be specific, a print is basically what looks like the outline of a gun.

DUNN: That is correct.

KINZINGER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and thank you, witnesses.

THOMPSON: Thank you. The gentleman yields back.

Chair recognizes the gentleman from California, Mr. Schiff.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I was on House floor from the beginning of the joint session until the attack and evacuation by the Capitol Police and I want to thank you. I'm convinced that one of the lives you saved that day might very well have been my own. We are all greatly in your debt. You're all heroes.

Sergeant Gonell, Representative Lofgren asked you about your experience and I won't ask you to repeat that. I would like the public to see from your perspective some video, if you're comfortable with my showing it.

GONELL: Yes, that is fine.

SCHIFF: All right. If the clerk could roll the video, please

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to die tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to lock them together. Here, arms through these shields. You know how to put your arms? Do we have a hard platoon guy here? Show them how to lock the shields together and hold the shields. We need an avenue of escape so wait to lock this one in. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back up. No. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop.


SCHIFF: Sergeant, in that video one of the first things you hear is someone saying you're going to die tonight. You described in your opening statement being crushed by rioters. You could feel yourself losing oxygen, thinking this was how your life was going to end, trampled to death while defending the Capitol. It's difficult for any of us to understand what you went through even though we were there. It's even harder, I think, for people around the country to understand what that was like.

Can you tell us what you were thinking when you were losing oxygen and thought that might be the end?

GONLL: My rushing out there, the way I was thinking was we can't let these people in no matter what even if it costs my life. The bloody hand that you saw, that's me in there. And both my hands were bleeding bad, and at no point in time did I stop to consider stop, because the attacks were so relentless that all we had to do was -- I was thinking I need to survive this, if possible, but I'm willing to sacrifice myself to prevent this, the attack, attackers from coming in.

I swore an oath and to protect the public, the members of Congress and the United States Constitution. And that's what I was doing that day regardless of my personal safety along with everybody else that was there that day.

They were calling us traitors even though they were the ones committing the treasonous act that day. It is devastating and demoralizing for people, whoever party it is, to call this attack and continue to minimize it, like nothing happened. It was an attempted coup that was happening at the Capitol that day. And if it had been another country, the U.S. would have had sent help.

And people need to understand that severity of and the magnitude of the event that was happening that day. We were all fighting a day 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 are attacking us. They are attacking our characters. They are attacking Officer Harry's character, people who never served in the military or as a law enforcement. This is a disgrace.

My actions that day was to save you guys regardless of my personal safety and I still continue to want to do that today, tomorrow, and as long as I'm paying to do it and if it is demanded of myself to do that in the future.

SCHIFF: Sergeant, this obviously had a deep impact on you, all of you, but it's also had a big impact on your family. You described how when you got home, you couldn't even hug your wife because you had chemicals all over you.

You wanted to go back, it seems like no sooner had you gotten home, you wanted to go back.

GONELL: Yes, sir.

SCHIFF: I think I read that you said you felt guilty. Did your wife want you to go back?


SCHIFF: Why did you go back and what was your conversation with her about that?

GONELL: After I took a shower, I spent about ten minutes hugging her and my son. I told her I got to get some sleep, because I got to go back to work. And she said no, you're not. You're hurt. I said no. I'm still able to continue to carry out my duties. And by 8:00, I was already on my way back despite her concerns and for my safety.

My sense of duty for the country, for the Constitution, at that time was bigger than even my love for my wife and my son. I put that ahead. And, for me, it's confounding that some people who have sworn an oath, elected officials, including people in the military that I've seen at the lower stairs fighting against me.


They swore an oath and they are forgetting about their oath. They're not putting the country before the party. And that's what bothers me the most. Because I as a former soldier, I know what that inherits, that oath. And I was willing and still willing to do that.

And we have people right now in front of the Justice Department asking to release some of the very same people to be released even though we are testifying about the trauma and the agony, everything that happened to us. It's pathetic and they shouldn't be elected officials anymore.

SCHIFF: Officer Dunn, you described talking to your fellow black officer about what you went through and experiencing those racial epithets. You asked a question, I think, that I've been haunted by ever since. Is this America? And I'm very interested to know your thoughts on the answer to that question. Is this America what you saw?

DUNN: Well, thank you for your question. You know, I -- I said this -- I've done a few interviews before about what my experience was that day, and I said that it was a war that we fought, and a war is composed of a bunch of different battles. And everybody even sitting at this table fought a different battle that day, but it was all for the same war. And as black officers, I believe we fought a different battle also.

And the fact that we had our race attacked and just because of the way we look, you know, to answer your question, frankly, I guess it is America. It shouldn't be, but I guess that's the way that things are. I don't condone it. I don't like it.

But, I mean, if you'd look at our history of American history, things are -- countries existed because they beat -- they won a war, or colonies in state lines and boundaries exist because of violence and wars like -- so I guess it sounds silly, but I guess it is American, and it's so -- but it's not the side of America that I like. It's not the side that any of us here represent. We represent the good side of America, the people that actually believe in decency, human decency, and we appeal to just the good in people. That's what we want to see, whether we disagree with how they vote on a bill about infrastructure, everybody wants the right thing people to do okay.

So that's why I'm glad to see this committee composed of Republican members also. So I -- that's encouraging. It's encouraging. So that's the side of America that I say, yes, this is America. This is the side that I like and the side that I acknowledge.

SCHIFF: Officer, thank you. I believe in this country and I believe in it because of people like you who understand what the flag means and what our Constitution means and risk their lives to defend it.

I'd like to think, as Amanda Gorman so eloquently said, that we're not broken, we're just unfinished, because if we're no longer committed to a peaceful transfer of power after elections, if our side doesn't win, then God help us. 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 are traitors, if they're born in another country or they don't look like us, then God help us.

But I have faith because of folks like you.