The first hearing held by the special committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot kicked off with emotional testimony from Capitol and DC police officers who responded to the attack.
The panel held its first hearing on Tuesday to lay the groundwork for its investigation into the events on January 6. Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans who broke with the party to join the committee, said it was imperative to hear "full and open testimony of every person with knowledge of the planning and preparation" of the riot, warning that it will "remain a cancer on our constitutional republic" if left uninvestigated.
"We must know what happened here at the Capitol. We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House — every phone call, every conversation, every meeting leading up to, during and after the attack," Cheney said. "If those responsible are not held accountable, and if Congress does not act responsibly, this will remain a cancer on our Constitutional Republic, undermining the peaceful transfer of power at the heart of our democratic system."
Officer Michael Fanone:
Fanone, a DC police officer who has been publicly critical of Republicans who have tried to spin the riot, slammed his desk as he delivered his testimony.
“The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful!” he said.
Fanone said he was grabbed, beaten, electrocuted, and stripped of his badge and police radio by the mob.
There was “a very good chance I would be torn apart or shot with my own weapon,” he said.
Fanone said he experienced a heart attack during the riot and has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them, and the people in this room. But too many are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist, or that hell wasn’t actually that bad,” he said.
Officer Harry Dunn:
Dunn, a Capitol Police officer who is Black, said he was berated with racial epithets by the mob.
A crowd of about 20 people screamed “boo f----ing n-----” at him, he said, adding that “no one had ever, ever called me a n----- while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer.”
After the riot, he commiserated with his friend, another Black officer.
"I told him about the racial slurs I endured and became very emotional and began yelling, 'How the blank could something like this happen? Is this America?' " Dunn said. "I began sobbing. Officers came over to console me."
Officer Daniel Hodges:
Hodges, a DC officer, repeatedly described the rioters as “terrorists” in his testimony.
“To my perpetual confusion, I saw the thin blue line flag, a symbol of support from law enforcement more than once being carried by the terrorists as they ignored our commands and continued to assault us,” he said.
Asked about conservatives who have referred to the rioters as just “tourists,” he replied, "If that’s what American tourists are like, I can see why foreign countries don’t like American tourists."
Sgt. Aquilino Gonell:
Gonell, a Capitol Police officer, said he thought he was going to die while being crushed by the mob.
"My fellow officers and I were punched, pushed, kicked, shoved, sprayed with chemical irritants and even blinded with eye-damaging lasers by a violent mob who apparently saw us law enforcement officers, dedicated to ironically protecting them as U.S. citizens, as an impediment in their attempted insurrection," Gonell said.
"I fell on top of some police shields on the ground that were slippery because of the pepper and bear spray. Rioters started to pull me by my leg, by my shield and by my gear straps on my left shoulder," he said. "My survival instincts kicked in, and I started kicking and punching as I tried in vain to get the MPD officers' attention behind and above me. But they could not help me because they were also being attacked."
"I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, 'This is how I'm going to die, trampled defending this entrance,' " he said.