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CNN Live Event/Special

Investigating the Insurrection: Officers Attacked at U.S. Capitol Testify at Insurrection Hearing. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 27, 2021 - 12:00   ET




REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Gentleman yields back. Chair recognizes gentleman from California, Mr. Aguilar.

REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. Gentlemen, like my colleagues, I was want to extend my gratitude and appreciation for your service on January 6, and since then what you've had to go through.

I was on the House floor like my colleagues on the 6th when I was told that a violent mob had breached the Capitol. And it's because of your service. It's because of you and your colleagues that we're here today, because you were literally the last line of physical defense, laying your life on the line for democracy.

My time will be limited. So I'll be asking questions of Officer Hodges and Sergeant Gonell, primarily about the weapons that you observe and how they were used? Officer Hodges, you are in a unique position, because you were down constitution, you were closer to the White House to start, as you indicated in your testimony.

During the morning, and the early afternoon, on the 6th, what did you hear specifically about guns and explosives that had been discovered by your fellow officers?

OFFICER DANIEL HODGES, DC METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: I was listening on the radio to our Gun Recovery Unit, working the crowd. What the - what we usually try to do is wait for the crowd to disperse before making a risk. That way, we don't set off a crowd and set off a ride.

So I think they might have identified people of interest that they never got a chance to address. And they were working the crowd, try and confirm reports of firearms on certain people. But it's also difficult to do, given the nature of the crowd and how many there were.

When I heard - confirmed the existence of a device there was only one thing it could be, you know, explosives. And - but we were in 42, we had our own - our own objective, our own mission, so couldn't really, we scan the crowd, but these people, you know, they know how to conceal their weapons.

So on a big Avenue like constitution, you can really, and it's difficult to detect the print. Or if it's in a backpack, there's really not much you can do. But we, you know, we continue to scan the crowd and find what we could. But mostly it was up to our other units to make those discoveries.

AGUILAR: You talked about in response to Representative Cheney, you talked about the gear that the individuals were wearing, so combined with what you saw, visually, with what you had heard on the radio, about guns, that that all kind of led you to give pause about the next few hours, correct?

HODGES: Absolutely. You know, once we got to the Capitol, and we were fighting, I was - I was wondering, you know, how many more bombs are there? How what's the trigger? Is it - is it going to be a cell phone? Is it - is it a timer?

Well, how many guns are there in this crowd? If we start firing is that the signal of them to set off the explosives? However many there are in the city? Is that the signal for them to break out their firearms and shoot back?

So that's the reason you know, why I didn't shoot anyone. And I imagine why many others didn't because, like I said, before, there were over 9000 of the terrorists out there with an unknown number of firearms and a couple 100 of us maybe, so we could not. If that turned into a firefight, we would have lost and this was a fight we couldn't afford to lose.

AGUILAR: I want to play a video and I'd ask that everyone watching pay attention specifically to the weapons the rioters were using. You can hear someone yell, get your machete. You can see officers being attacked with flagpoles flares and gas canisters if we could roll the video?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --file and these are flag - the crowd in the crowd, they're spraying the crowd. They're spraying the crowd.


AGUILAR: Sergeant Canal in the video we just saw someone throw a large speaker was that directed your way?

SERGEANT AQUILINO GONELL, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: That was - I was further inside. That was afterward towards the end of the before they got cleared. When they threw the speaker at me and I was further inside that tunnel.

AGUILAR: What types of weapons did you see used against your fellow officers?

GONELL: Police shields, police baton, the hammer, sledgehammer that you saw on that video, flagpoles, tasers, pepper spray, bear spray, - bats, PVC pipes, copper pipes, rocks, table legs breaking - broken down, furniture broken down, the guardrails for the inauguration stage, cones 4/4. Any weapons any item so they could get their hands on it that--

AGUILAR: You were further down the corridor but the speaker was thrown at you and it - and it hits your foot is that correct?

GONELL: Correct, sir.

AGUILAR: We've a photo--

GONELL: It was thrown my way and then we landed hit somebody else and they hit my foot.

AGUILAR: I think we have a photo of your foot here as well that we'd like to share.

GONELL: That is correct.

AGUILAR: Can you tell me how you're doing you mentioned in your opening statement about your continued physical therapy related to the - related to the foot can you tell me how you're doing?

GONELL: The foot I had a several conditions that were one is a fusion on number one metatarsal - tarsal metatarsal, then there was a hammer toe that as a result of the hit. And then the second and third digit also got damage.

And in order for to fix one needed corrected the big toe to stabilize, if not - on the future I would had the same problem returning. It is very painful. It is well out of patience and determination that I had gone through I still had the same problems in terms of pain and stiffness why not?

The doctor last week on Tuesday told me that I'm going to need surgery on my shoulder because I have labor tear that has now a heel even six - more than six months later. And possibly my rotator cuff also is going to need some work. So you're talking about a month to a year more of physical treatment in rehab.

AGUILAR: Sergeant, you're an immigrant from the Dominican Republic a naturalized U.S. citizen and you mentioned how individuals zeroed in on your race that day.

GONELL: Yes, sir.

AGUILAR: Can you tell me how that how that made you feel?

GONELL: When we were asked before or right after MPD just arrived with the fluorescent mountain bike unit they got there. I was at the front line and them apparently they seen even through my mask they saw my skin color and say you're not even American regardless what - whether I was in the military, they don't know that.

But they yelling and saying oh, all these things to me. I mean, when I heard that I wasn't even thinking about any ratio stuff. I was like OK; you don't know that for fat so - you entertaining that. But it's just like Officer Harry Dunn. It takes time for you to process that. And you only realize what was happening after you go back and see it from a different point in time, because I only saw that recently but for me I wasn't even thinking about it.


GONELL: I'm there to stop them. Regardless, I'm not thinking what they were yelling in terms of my skin color or my race, and I know on American soil - former soldier and a police officer? I didn't take that into account when I was defending all of you guys.

AGUILAR: Officer Hodges, you characterize the attack on the Capitol as a white nationalist insurrection? Can you describe what you saw that led you to label the attack that way?

HODGES: The crowd was overwhelmingly white males. Usually a bit older, middle aged, older, but some younger, I think out of the entire time I was there, I saw just two women and two Asian males. Everyone else was white males.

They didn't say anything especially xenophobic to me. But to my black colleagues, and anyone who's not white, and they would some of them would try to try to recruit me. One of them came up to me and said, are you my brother?

There are many, many known organizations have ties to white supremacy, we had a presence there are like - Oathkeepers, that kind of thing. And everyone I've ever - people who associate with Donald Trump, or find more likely to subscribe to that kind of belief system.

AGUILAR: I want to thank - for taking the very difficult step of sharing your stories and your recollections of the threats of violence that you endured. No one should have to experience what you went through. In this committee, we'll continue its work to give a complete accounting of what happened to protect further officers and to amplify the stories that you've shared today. Thank you so much for being here. Yield back, Mr. Chairman.

THOMPSON: Thank you. Gentleman yields back. Chair recognizes the Gentle Lady from Florida Ms. Murphy for five minutes.

REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you to the witnesses, for your testimony today for your bravery on January 6th, and for your service to our country. I know all of you endured a great deal on January 6th.

And I know we've watched a lot of difficult video in this testimony so far, but I hope it's OK with you if I show a brief video of what Officer Hodges experienced that day. Can you please cue the video?


MURPHY: Officer Hodges I know that must have been difficult to watch. But I really think it's important for the American people to see that, because that's the beginning of the kind of accountability that this committee is committed to, in order for us to do what you said, moving forward as a country.

You know, January 6th was an attack on our democracy. It was an attack on the peaceful transfer of power. And it was an attack on this Capitol Building. But it was also an attack on real people. And most people don't know this. And I don't think even you know this, but your actions had a profound impact on me.

So at 3 pm on January 6th, while you were holding back the mob at the Lower West Terrace Entrance, I was holed up with Congresswoman Kathleen Rice in a small office about 40 paces from the tunnel that you all were in. That's about from the distance where I'm sitting here on the dais to that back wall.

And from that office, in close proximity to where you all help align, I listened to you struggle, I listened to you yelling out to one another. I listened to you care for one another, directing people back to the makeshift eyewash station that was at the end of our hall. And then I listened to people coughing, having difficulty breathing.

But I watched you and heard you all get back into the fight. And I think Congresswoman Rice and I were the only members of Congress to be down there on that Lower West Terrace. You know, we had taken refuge in that office, because we thought for sure, being in the basement at the heart of the Capitol was the safest place we could be.

And it turned out; we ended up at the center of the storm. And officer for known you had said, you know, your 250 feet off of that tunnel, and you felt certain that they were going to kill you. Imagine if they had caught the two members of Congress that were just 40 feet from where you all were.

And I know Sergeant Gonell and Officer Hodges you both said that you didn't realize that other parts of the Capitol had been breached. But you really felt like you were the last line of defense? Well, I'm telling you, that you were our last line of defense and during the exact period of time, Officer Hodges, in that video where you were sacrificing your body to hold that door.

It gave Congresswoman Rice and I and the Capitol Police Officers who have been sent to extract us the freedom of movement on that hallway to escape down the other end of that hallway. And I shudder to think about what would have happened had you not held that line?

You know, I have two young children. I have a 10-year-old son and a 7- year-old daughter. And they're the light of my life. And the reason I was able to hug them again, was because of the courage that you and your fellow officers showed that day.

And so just a really heartfelt thank you I think it's important for everybody, though, to remember that the main reason rioters didn't harm any members of Congress was because they didn't encounter any members of Congress. And they didn't encounter any members of Congress because law enforcement officers did your jobs that day. And you did it well.

I think without you what would have been a terrible and what was a terrible and tragic day would have been even more terrible and more tragic so just very grateful for all of you. And now I'd like to talk a little bit about that video.

You've talked a little bit about it in your opening statement. But can you walk us through what is happening in that scene that my understanding is that is a mix of your body camera as well as video from other vantage points?

HODGES: That's correct. At the beginning, you see me walking into the Capitol that was after we were driven off of the West Terrace. Then you see me spit on the floor unfortunately, trying to clear my lungs and mouth of all the CS and OC. You see me preparing my gas mask donning it ready to get back out there.

And I follow the noise to the tunnel where it was just, you know, wall to wall people packed fighting for with everything they had.


GONELL: It was full of OC and CS gas at the time. And I believe that think a smoke was from a fire extinguisher, you could see the entire residue on the officers who were there. And it's like I said before, you know, we - they had, you know, they are numbered us 50 something to one.

So it didn't matter how many, how many we defeated? We just had to - we had to hold on, we couldn't let anyone can let anyone on through. They could they always had a relative, you know, essentially an infinite number of replacements. They'd say, you know, we need fresh patriots up here.

And there would be more. So we just had to hold until someone came to help. And like I said, once I got to the front, I didn't want - I didn't want any more pressure on the officers behind me. So I tried to insert myself to where I could use the doorframe, brace myself and push forward.

So it could take back more territory. Unfortunately, that backfired. So once we lost ground, I was unable to retreat. I was crushed up against the doorframe. And then my most vulnerable moments, the man in front of me, took advantage and beat me and beat me in the head, ripped off my gas mask, straining my neck skull, split my lip open.

Just everything he could. And at that point, I recognize that if I - if I stayed there, and then I was going to, you know, pass out from lack of oxygen or get dragged out into the crowd and be end up like for known. So I called for help.

You know, I tried to make it clear that, you know, my position was untenable, I had to fall back. And thankfully the other officers heard that were able to get me out of there. And to the back where I recuperated as best I could before I got back out there again.

MURPHY: Well, it's clear that you suffered immense pain from the assault, it's clear that you were outnumbered and yet you just said you got back out there again. Tell me what's worth all of that pain? What was worth it? What were you fighting for that day?

HODGES: Democracy. You were 40 feet away, four yards, whatever. If, especially with razor thin margins, on Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, if any single one person was kidnapped or killed, which I have no doubt in my mind is what they intended. That would affect the outcome of legislation and, and all your duties for years to come.

And if that's just one person, what if you know more than one person they would the difference would be even greater than what should be and will be. And for obviously, for each other you know, you your immediate concern is the well-being of your colleagues, the other officers who were there fighting beside me.

I think I can speak for everyone when I say we worry about each other more than ourselves. That's just in our nature. It's part of why you become a police officer. So yes, like when foreknown said he was trying to find out who needs help, no one would volunteer. That's just an example of that kind of mindset that we have.

So it was for democracy. It was for men and women of the House and Senate. It was for each other and it was for the future of the country.

MURPHY: Thank you, Officer Hodges, and thank you all for defending democracy. And I appreciate your testimony, and I appreciate your continued service. With that I yield back.

THOMPSON: Gentle Lady yields back. Chair recognizes the gentleman from Maryland Mr. Raskin.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Thank you Mr. Chairman. Sergeant General, Officer Fanone, Officer Hodges, Officer Dunn you are a great law enforcement officers and a hero to law enforcement officers across the country. You're great public servants.

You are here to public servants across the country. But you are a great American can send your heroes to all of America.


RASKIN: And long after you're gone, 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.

Now Officer Dunn, I've got to start with you, because you're my constituent. And you are the pride of Maryland today. Because of the way you stood up for the Capitol, and for the Congress and for our democracy, but you said something fascinating.

In your testimony, you said, you've never seen anybody physically assault a single officer before and you're 13 years on the force, much less thousands and thousands of people attacking hundreds of officers. So how did you experience that when it first happened? OFFICE HARRY DUNN, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: So with regards to that, never since. So I've seen videos of officers being attacked, and people resisting arrest. But to clarify, it's never been the assaults on the skills that we have seen like that before? I just want to clarify that. Can you repeat your question?

RASKIN: Well, actually, it leads to my next one, actually. You made a really interesting point, you said you'd seen protests for many, many years, you'd seen even civil disobedience for many years. There's an effort today to portray the events of January 6th, like some kind of resurrection of Dr. King's march on Washington in 1963.

You know, and I've seen a lot of protests here, too. I've seen the march for our lives that the young people did, about gun violence, I see people marching for D.C. statehood, arguing for their rights to representation in Congress, and I've seen civil disobedience.

But was this like any of those rallies or marches or demonstrations you'd ever seen? And if not, what was different about it?

DUNN: So while the marches that you - the protest that you specifically talked about, I'll go a step further and talk about the not so what - the ones that had the potential to be not so peaceful, you had "The Million Man March Rally", the 20th anniversary of it was a lot of opposition to that.

You had the clan that came up here; you had people that were pro guns that wanted to come up here. So they're all of those had the potential to be very violent, and, frankly, quite deadly. But they did not. This wasn't the first time that - if I can just use this quote, "The MAGA People" came up here to the Capitol before they were in D.C. before there were some skirmishes.

But it was never the attempt to overthrow democracy, they came up, I think this was maybe their second or third time that they had come up on January 6th, and even then, as belligerent as they were, it didn't account to this violence.

So the only difference that I see in that is that they had marching orders, so to say, when people feel emboldened by people in power, they assume that they're right. Like, the one of the scariest things about January 6th is that the people that were there, even to this day, think that they were right. They think that they were right.

And that that makes for a scary recipe for the future of this country. So that I think that's why it's very important that you all take this committee seriously and get to the bottom of why this happened in this making never happened again.

RASKIN: Thank you. Officer Fanone, I think you've given our committee our marching orders today, which is to hold the line. You hold the line, and now we've got to hold the line. So I want to thank you for that. If we show a fraction of the courage and the valor that you all demonstrated on January 6th, then we will hold the line in this committee. But I want to ask you about holding the line. I want to go back to this question of weapons so we can clear this up. Because there's still some people are saying that, that the insurrectionist were unarmed.

And I wonder what your reaction is to that because we've heard about, well, first of all, rampant baseball bats, lead pipes, confederate battle flags and so on. And what about the question of firearms, so what is your reaction generally to this proposition that they weren't armed?

OFFICER MICHAEL FANONE, DC METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICER: First and foremost, I would say that the implements that you just described are most certainly weapons.