On Tuesday, the U.S House Committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection held their first hearing with four key officers testifying.
The committee created by Speaker Nancy Pelosi will focus on the facts and not politics, according to Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson.
The four officers who testified were U.S. Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, Capitol Officer Harry Dunn, D.C. Narcotics Officer Michael Fanone, and D.C. Officer Daniel Hodges.
All four officers described their experiences of combating rioters that day and their wellbeing since.
The hearing opened with a video showing rioters storming into the Capitol building by breaking windows with police officers shields, pepper spraying and beating officers with hockey sticks, metal bars, and batons.
Officers are heard in the video begging for help while rioters were shouting phrases like “HANG MIKE PENCE” and “STOP THE STEAL” in MAGA attire, tactical gear, and holding confederate flags.
Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, a former army veteran, gave an emotional testimony on his experience and what he described as a medieval battle.
“On Jan. 6 for the first time I was more afraid to work at the Capitol, then my entire deployment to Iraq,” Gonell said.
Gonell said he’s been working to overcome his physical and emotional injuries through physical therapy and rehabilitation, but hasn’t felt the same since.
“I sustained injuries on both my hands, my left shoulder, my left calf and my right foot,” Gonell said.
D.C. Police Officer Michael Fanone said his experience of being pulled into the mob and beaten brutally led him to being diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder, and a concussion.
Fanone said he’s working to overcome his injuries, but what hurts him the most are elected officials who are minimizing the riot.
“What makes the struggle harder and more painful is that so many of my fellow citizens including so many of the people I put my life at risk to defend are downplaying or outright denying what happened,” Fanone said.
D.C. Police Officer Daniel Hodges said after law enforcement was able to hold the line, rioters began to engage in hand to hand combat.
“One latched on to my face and got his thumb in my right eye attempting to gauge it out,” Hodges said. “I cried out in pain and I managed to shake him off before any permanent damage was done.”
Hodges also said at one point he was trapped in a doorway after a rioter slammed him with a D.C. police department shield while another man tore off his gas mask.
“My arms were pinned and effectively useless trapped against the shield on the left and the doorframe on my right,” Hodges said. “With my posture renting in no functional strength or freedom of movement I was effectively defenseless and gradually sustaining injury from the increasing pressure of the mob.”
According to the U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, officers were aware of protests outside of the Capitol, but said he became concerned after a bomb was found at the Repulican Committee.
Then Dunn said he relocated to the northwest side of the Capitol where he was stunned with what he saw.
“Officers were being bloodied in the fighting, many were screaming and many were blinded and coughing from chemical irritants being sprayed in their faces,” Dunn said.
Dunn, a Black man, also said the rioters shouted racial slurs at him and booed him.
“It’s so disheartening and disappointing that we live in a country with people like that,” Dunn said. “That attacks you because of the color of your skin just to hurt you. Those words are weapons.”