Four officers who defended the US Capitol from a mob of violent pro-Trump insurrectionists on Jan. 6 gave horrific testimony Tuesday about the verbal and physical attacks they were subjected to during the riot.
Speaking before a House special committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, the officers described how they were beaten, punched, kicked, electrocuted, stripped of their weapons and masks, and nearly crushed to death while enduring a stream of taunts, threats, and racist insults from rioters attempting to stop lawmakers from certifying President Joe Biden's electoral victory.
DC Metropolitan Police officers Daniel Hodges and Michael Fanone and Capitol Police Sgts. Harry Dunn and Aquilino Gonell became emotional while describing the violence of that day and the toll it has taken on their physical and emotional health, as well as their frustration and anger with elected officials who have downplayed the events of Jan. 6.
Authorities estimated that about 140 officers were injured that day when they were trampled upon, sprayed with chemical irritants, and beaten with weapons fashioned from flagpoles, metal barriers, and baseball bats.
Gonell and Dunn also testified about the racist insults and slurs that Trump supporters spewed at them while storming the Capitol.
The officers recalled hearing the crowd calling them "traitors" and chanting "fuck the blue."
A video played during Tuesday's testimony showed the kind of insults and taunts officers were subjected to during the attack, including shouts of "Traitors, how do you live with yourself?" and "Die, traitors!"
"You should be mad too, fucking traitors," one rioter yelled, while others told the officers, "You're on the wrong side of freedom."
"Fuck you guys, you can't even call yourself American," one woman screamed at the officers defending the Capitol. "You broke your fucking oath today. 1776!"
Here are some of the things that the officers testified hearing the insurrectionists yell at them during the attack.
"This nigger voted for Joe Biden."
In emotional testimony, Dunn described how he and other Black officers endured racial slurs, including the n-word, while protecting the Capitol.
Dunn said rioters in MAGA hats and shirts that said "Trump 2020" told him that Trump had invited them to the Capitol and that they were there "to stop the steal." He recalled hearing them say "Joe Biden is not the president."
Dunn said that even though he did his best to keep politics out of his job as a law enforcement officer, their taunts prompted him to tell the rioters that he voted for Biden.
"Does my vote not count? Am I nobody?" Dunn recalled telling them.
This, he said, prompted a torrent of racial epithets from the mob.
A woman in a pink MAGA shirt yelled, "You know what, guys? This nigger voted for Joe Biden," Dunn recalled.
The crowd then started to chant, "Boo, fucking nigger," he said.
"No one has ever called me a nigger while I'm wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer," Dunn said, adding that other Black officers shared with him the racial abuse they were subjected to.
One officer told Dunn that he been never been called the n-word to his face until Jan. 6. Another Black officer said the rioters told him to "put your gun down and we'll show you what kind of nigger you really are," Dunn told the committee.
"You're not even an American."
Gonell, who immigrated to the US from the Dominican Republic in 1992 and became a US Army veteran serving in Iraq, said the rioters apparently saw his skin color even through his mask and told him, "You're not even an American."
"I was more afraid to work at the Capitol than during my entire deployment in Iraq," Gonell said, adding that nothing in his experience in the army or as a law enforcement officer prepared him for what he confronted on Jan. 6.
"I was accused of betraying my oath and of choosing my paycheck over my loyalty to the US Constitution," he said, recalling the insults of the rioters. He said the crowd labeled him a traitor and a disgrace and called for him to be executed.
Some of the rioters, Gonell said, "had the audacity to tell me it was nothing personal."
He said they used "menacing language" and threatened to shoot back at officers and overrun them.
Gonell recalled hearing some rioters ask officers to join their cause while also hearing "specific threats" against the lives of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then–vice president Mike Pence.
"The physical violence we experienced was horrific and devastating," Gonell said, describing the attacks as a "medieval battle."
"We were punched, kicked, shocked, and sprayed with chemical irritants," he said.
Gonell recalled hearing the rioters shout that Trump had sent them and urging officers to "pick the right side."
He said he heard his fellow officers screaming in agony and pain while he himself was being crushed by the rioters.
"I felt myself losing oxygen and recalled thinking to myself, This is how I'm going to die," Gonell said.
"Kill him with his own gun."
DC officer Fanone said he still hears these words in his head today: "Kill him with his own gun."
He recalled being "grabbed, beaten, and tased — all while being called a traitor to my own country."
The rioters, he said, attempted to strip off his firearm and threatened to kill him with it. They ripped off his radio, seized his ammunition, and beat him with their fists and hard metal objects, Fanone said.
He recalled that some of them began chanting "get his gun and kill him with his own gun."
Fanone said he was repeatedly electrocuted with a stun gun and that his own body camera captured how he was "assaulted and nearly killed as the mob attacked the Capitol that day."
"During those moments, I remember thinking I would be torn apart or shot with my own weapon," he said.
In his desperation, Fanone said he tried to appeal to some of the rioters' humanity, telling them, "I have kids."
Someone in the crowd then stepped forward to protect him, and he was carried to safety.
Fanone said at that point he had been beaten unconscious and remained that way for about four minutes. He was transported to a hospital where he was told that he had suffered a heart attack and a concussion.
Fanone said that even as his physical injuries from the attack begin to heal, he was "left with the psychological trauma and emotional anxiety of having suffered such a horrific event."
"You will die on your knees."
Hodges testified that as he retained control of his baton from a rioter who had tried to grab it, the man yelled at Hodges, "You're on the wrong team," while another rioter yelled, "You will die on your knees."
As he marched along with his colleagues to protect the Capitol, Hodges recalled people sarcastically taunting them by saying, "Here come the boys in blue...so brave."
Another woman called them "storm troopers," while others shouted that they were traitors, Hodges recalled.
Hodges, who referred to the Trump supporters as "terrorists" in his testimony, said that one of them threw something heavy down on him and kicked him to the chest as he went to the ground and the crowd chanted "USA!"
He also described seeing some members of the mob carry pro-police Thin Blue Line flags even as the crowd attacked law enforcement officers.
Hodges said he heard a man with a QAnon hoodie saying, "This is a time to choose what side of history to be on," while another berated him to take off his gear and warned him to "show solidarity" with the rioters.
"You think your little pea shooter guns are gonna stop this crowd?" Hodges recalled another man telling him. "No, we're going in the building."
Hodges also described the excruciating moments — captured on a now-viral video — where he was crushed against a door between a massive mob of rioters pushing against a line of police officers.
He said a rioter in front grabbed the front of his gas mask and used it to beat his head against the door while making "guttural screams" and "foaming at the mouth."
"He switched to pulling it off my head, the straps stretching against my skull and straining my neck," Hodges said.
The man then put his cellphone in his mouth to free up both his hands to assault Hodges. He also ripped off Hodges' gas mask, exposing him to the chemical irritants sprayed by the mob, the officer said.
Another rioter grabbed Hodges' baton and bashed his head and face, Hodges said, leaving him with a ruptured lip and an additional injury to his skull.