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'It has not ended': Officers who responded to Jan. 6 riots testify before House Select Committee

Capitol breach
Posted at 4:38 AM, Jul 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-27 16:23:20-04

Four police officials who responded to the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 shared their harrowing stories from the day, and lawmakers shared never-before-seen footage of the violence during the first public hearing held by a House Select Committee tasked with investigating the incident.

Tuesday's hearing featured testimony from two D.C. Metropolitan Police officers — Daniel Hodges and Michael Fanone — and two Capitol Police officials — Officer Harry Dunn and Sgt. Aquilino Gonell.

All four officials spoke of the disturbing and violent outbursts they faced from Trump supporters who were attempting to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden's win in the 2020 presidential election.

“To the rioters, insurrectionists and terrorists of that day, democracy went on that night and still continues to exist today," Dunn said. "Democracy is bigger than any one person in any one party. You all tried to disrupt democracy that day. You all failed.”

Here's what each officer said in their opening statement.

Sgt. Aquilino Gonell: Gonell, a Capitol police sergeant, described thinking that he was going to die as he was squeezed by a swarm of Trump supporters that were rushing into a corridor leading to the building.

"This is how I'm going to die," Gonell said he remembered thinking.

He also described being attacked by his own police weapons and other objects, like American flags.

Despite suffering a hand laceration and a foot injury that later required surgery, Gonell said he returned to the Capitol on Jan. 7 and worked 15 consecutive days through the inauguration.

He also says he now needs surgery on his shoulder.

"For most people, Jan. 6 lasted a few hours. But for those of us who were in the thick of it, it has not ended," Gonell said.

Officer Michael Fanone: Fanone, an undercover officer with the D.C. Metro Police, said he put on his uniform for the first time in several years after hearing that police were overwhelmed at the Capitol.

He testified that he was pulled into a crowd of rioters and beaten while they chanted about stealing his gun and killing him.

He also said he was disturbed by those who are downplaying the level of violence that took place on that day.

"I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room," Fanone said. "But now I'm being told that hell doesn't exist, or hell wasn't that bad."

Officer Daniel Hodges: Hodges was among the officers who were trampled on Jan. 6 as Trump supporters attempted to breach the Capitol through a narrow corridor. Video of Hodges screaming in pain went viral in the days after the riots.

"The mob of terrorists were shouting 'heave, ho,' and they pushed their way forward," Hodges testified. "A man in front of me grabbed my baton ... he bashed me in the face and head with it ... I did the only thing I could do and screamed for help."

Officer Harry Dunn: The only Black officer testifying during Tuesday's hearing, Dunn testified that Trump supporters were carrying Confederate flags used racial slurs against him after telling them he voted for Joe Biden.

Dunn said it was the first time he had ever been called the N-word while wearing a Capitol Police uniform.

The House Select Committee is moving forward largely without the support of Republicans. The nine-member committee only has two Republican members, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois. Both were among the small handful of GOP members to vote to impeach President Donald Trump for his actions on Jan. 6.

In her opening statement on Tuesday, Cheney stressed that the committee's investigation should be "non-partisan" and urged her Republican colleagues and all Americans to face several serious questions.

"Will we respect the rule of law? Will we respect the ruling of our courts? Will we commit to a peaceful transfer of power?" Cheney asked.

Kinzinger grew emotional during his questioning as he described how "broken" law enforcement officers must feel after serving on Jan. 6.

"But, you guys won. You guys held," Kinzinger said through tears.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said last week that Republicans would not participate with the Select Committee after Speaker Nancy Pelosi denied his request to appoint two Republicans — Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio and Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana. Both Jordan and Banks voted on Jan. 6 to overturn the results of the 2020 election following the riot.

Pelosi did agree to appoint three other Republicans requested by McCarthy. However, after Pelosi declined to appoint Jordan and Banks, McCarthy said he would push Republicans not to participate.

The decision by House Democrats to move forward with their own Jan. 6 investigation came after efforts to establish a Sept. 11-style bicameral and bipartisan investigation were scuttled by Senate Republicans earlier this year.

At a press conference prior to Tuesday's hearing, McCarthy attempted to shift blame for the Jan. 6 riots to Pelosi and claimed the way she structured the committee would lead to a "failed committee and a failed report."

House Republicans held a press conference ahead of Tuesday's hearing. Watch below:

McCarthy added that the Jan. 6 committee would only be asking the questions that Pelosi "wants to be asked." At that same press conference, Banks accused Pelosi of "cherry-picking" members "to change the narrative" of the investigation.