USA TODAY International Edition

‘ This is how I’m going to die,’ officer testifies

‘ This is how I’m going to die,’ one said

- Sarah Elbeshbish­i and Deirdre Shesgreen Contributi­ng: Matthew Brown

Highlights from the gripping accounts of the four officers who witnessed harrowing violence and slurs.

WASHINGTON – Beaten unconsciou­s. Blasted with chemical irritants. Attacked with a flagpole. Called a racial slur.

Four law enforcemen­t officers offered gripping accounts Tuesday of the harrowing violence and terrible fear they endured while trying to defend the U. S. Capitol on Jan. 6, when a mob of thenPresid­ent Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the building.

The officers’ accounts provided a dramatic opening for the House select committee investigat­ing the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, in which Trump’s supporters tried to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 election win.

Here are highlights from their testimony.

Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell

An Army veteran, Gonell said his experience during the insurrecti­on was more terrifying than serving in Iraq, where he had to conduct supply missions on roads laced with improvised explosive devices.

“Nothing in my experience in the Army or as a law enforcemen­t officer prepared me for what we confronted on Jan. 6,” he told the panel, recounting hand- to- hand combat with the rioters that likened to a “medieval” battle.

“I did not recognize my fellow citizens,” Gonell said. One rioter, he said, “shouted that I – an Army veteran and a police officer – should be executed.”

As he and his fellow officers were punched, kicked and sprayed with chemicals, “I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, ‘ This is how I’m going to die,’ ” Gonell said.

Six months after the riot, Gonell said he is still recovering from injuries.

DC Metro officer Michael Fanone

Fanone, who nearly died on Jan. 6, has emerged as one of the most outspoken enforcemen­t officials in the wake of the Capitol riot, during which he was beaten unconsciou­s and suffered a heart attack.

In the months since Jan. 6, he has lobbied Congress to create a bipartisan, independen­t commission to probe the riot and lashed Republican­s for downplayin­g the attack.

At Tuesday’s hearing, he moved into the spotlight again.

“As I was swarmed by a violent mob, they ripped off my badge, they grabbed and stripped me of my radio, they seized a munition that was secured to my body,” Fanone recalled. “They began to beat me with their fists and what felt like hard metal objects.”

At one point during the riot, Fanone said, he was pulled from a line of police by a rioter who shouted “I got one!”

As he was beaten, he heard a rioter shout to “Get his gun! Kill him with his own weapon.”

“I was electrocut­ed again and again and again with a taser. I’m sure I was screaming but I don’t think I could even hear my own voice,” he recounted.

“I have kids,” he responded in a plea for his life.

“I still hear those words in my head today,” Fanone said.

An unconsciou­s Fanone was later driven by another injured officer to a nearby hospital, where he was told he suffered a heart attack and multiple lifethreat­ening injuries. He suffers from post- traumatic stress disorder.

“I thought I had seen it all, many times over,” Fanone said. “Yet what I witnessed and experience on Jan. 6, 2021, was unlike anything I had ever seen, anything I had ever experience­d or could have imagined in my country.”

U. S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn

U. S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn recounted how pro- Trump protesters continued to swell at the Capitol all morning on Jan. 6 before becoming violent after thousands had assembled.

Rioters chanted “Stop the steal!,” clinging to the false claim that Trump had won the election. When Dunn said that he’d voted for Biden and inquired if his vote didn’t matter, the already hostile crowd became irate.

Dunn also recounted how the aftermath of the day had been a “blur” to him. At one point he broke down in despair in the Capitol rotunda and asked how the attack was even possible, he said.

In the months since the attack, Dunn has said he’s been in support groups for his mental health to deal with the trauma of the attack, declaring that “there’s absolutely nothing wrong” with seeking help. Two Capitol police officers have died by suicide in the months since the attack.

Dunn also directly addressed the rioters and insurrecti­onists who were at the Capitol that day, saying “democracy went on that night and still continues to this day … you all tried to disrupt democracy, and you all failed.”

DC Metro Police officer Daniel Hodges

Hodges said rioters bashed his head, kicked him in the chest, and sprayed him with a chemical irritant during the riot, among other assaults.

One attacker told him he would “die on your knees.”

During one scuffle, a rioter tried to take Hodges’ baton and another kicked him in the chest and moved his mask over his eyes, leaving him temporaril­y blind.

In the haze, Hodges said he remembers seeing the “thin blue line flag, a symbol of support for law enforcemen­t” being carried by the rioters who then attacked the officers they claimed to support. Hodges was told he was “on the wrong team” by one of the attackers.

As he was being gassed and having his head smashed, Hodges recounted screaming for help until fellow officers were able to save him from the attackers.

 ?? AP ?? U. S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell wipes his eyes at Tuesday’s hearing.
AP U. S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell wipes his eyes at Tuesday’s hearing.

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