A DC Metropolitan Police officer dragged into the crowd by the pro-Trump mob during the insurrection on the US Capitol was beaten by rioters who threatened to shoot him with his own weapon, according to his ex-wife.
The shocking moment was captured by photographer Mel D. Cole who snapped a picture of the officer being pulled down the stairs by violent pro-Trump supporters on Wednesday, his mouth open in panic, his face full of fear.
"I’ve never seen a cop scared like that," Cole told BuzzFeed News. "I knew he was terrified for his life. Cops have this way about them. They don’t show fear most of the time and this man was scared."
"They were beating the shit out of him," said Cole. "Right in front of my eyes."
The cop was one of at least three Metropolitan Police Department officers captured in viral videos and photos being assaulted outside the Capitol last Wednesday during the attempted coup, as law enforcement proved woefully underprepared for the riots despite days of public planning.
Hsin-Yi Wang reposted Cole's photo on Facebook, identifying her ex-husband as the officer and adding more details about the terrifying assault (BuzzFeed News is not identifying the officer because he has not responded to requests for comment).
"He was dragged into the mob, his badge ripped off, beaten, tazed, and pepper sprayed," she wrote. "All the while hearing the protestors saying, 'Kill him with his own gun!'"
She removed her post from public view after this article was published. Wang told BuzzFeed News her children's father is now "on the mend and recuperating."
Right before he took the photograph, Cole had just moved to the right of a Capitol entrance on the west side of the building, where a line of police officers were trying to hold back rioters from entering, when he saw the officer get pulled away from the police line and attacked.
“[They were] beating him, pulling him around, yelling at him," said Cole, a hip-hop photographer who started shooting Black Lives Matter protests after the death of George Floyd and has photographed multiple pro-Trump events. "Calling him a traitor, which is a big thing, and [saying], ‘We supported you. We backed the blue. You’re not backing us, traitor. You traitor.'"
In her Facebook post, Wang said her ex begged for his life and told those hitting him that he was a father.
"I can’t imagine the fear and distraught he felt, not knowing if he was going make it out alive, at one point pleading for his life and telling the protestors he has children," she wrote.
Cole said that at some point — he said he struggled to have a sense of time about the incident but that he thought it went for between 30 seconds to a minute — those in the crowd "took a pause" and seemed to realize the magnitude of assaulting an officer.
"A couple of people came to their senses and were like, This is not right," said Cole, "and they stopped and allowed him to go back up."
The violence began again immediately, said Cole.
Cole said when he read Wang's Facebook post about the incident, “My mouth just dropped and my heart was just like, Oh, man."
“Honestly, I don’t know how he can be a cop again. How do you go back to work again knowing that kind of stuff happened? All of those cops, their superiors, how do you trust them anymore?
The man he photographed has been in the force for at least a decade, according to news reports identifying him as being a Metropolitan Police Department officer in 2010.
The Metropolitan Police did not respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.
Another video, shown from different angles in the New York Times, reveals another incident where an officer was dragged facedown on the ground by rioters, who beat the officer with flag poles. The Times reports that three of the men spotted in videos appear in a list from Metropolitan Police of persons of interest for assault of an officer at the Capitol insurrection.
Cole, who is Black, said the experience of watching white rioters assault a police officer and not be immediately arrested or face any violent consequences was "white privilege on peak," particularly when he was arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge last summer for taking photographs during a Black Lives Matter protest.
"Can you imagine if one of those protesters beat up a cop like that and had him screaming, ‘I have kids, I have kids,’ ripped his badge off, [threaten to] shoot him with his own gun?" said Cole. "Can you imagine if Black people did that what the cops would do?"