Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.
The officers who defended the Capitol against a violent mob on January 6 suffered beatings, concussions, contusions, electrocutions, heart attacks. But more damage has been inflicted by Republicans who’ve refused to acknowledge the horror of the day, they testified on Tuesday.
“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,” Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone testified during the first hearing held by the House January 6 Select Committee.
“They tortured me. They beat me. I was struck with a taser device at the base of my skull numerous times, and they continued to do so until I yelled out that I have kids,” he said later.
Fanone had a heart attack as a result of the beating and was also diagnosed with a concussion, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“What makes the struggle harder and more painful is to know 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 continued, the fury in his voice barely contained. “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 hell actually wasn’t that bad. The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful.”
Congressional Republicans blocked the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate what happened on January 6. That led to the creation of this current committee. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy then chose to boycott these hearings after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of his appointees. But two Republicans—Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney and Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger—agreed to participate.
Fanone wasn’t the only one who expressed anger that both President Trump, who incited the attack, and the House Republicans who the officers helped protect on the day of the insurrection had sought to downplay the events and gaslight America about the severity of the attacks.
Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell testified that he thought he was going to die on that day, and that his experience that day was scarier than his time serving in the military in Iraq.
“I could have lost my life that day not once but many times.”
“I could have lost my life that day not once but many times,” he said.
When Cheney asked about Trump’s recent claims that many rioters were “hugging and kissing” the police, Gonell fired back, calling the remarks “upsetting” and “demoralizing.”
“It’s a pathetic excuse for his behavior for something that he himself helped create, with this monstrosity. I’m still recovering from those ‘hugs and kisses,’” he said. “If that was hugs and kisses, then we all should go to his house and do the same thing to him.”
Aquilino later walked back his comment that Trump should face the same experience, apologizing for his “outburst.” But he made clear how frustrated he was with “pathetic” congressional Republicans who are looking to move on from the attacks.
“People need to understand the severity and magnitude of what happened that day. We were all fighting for our lives to give them, to give you guys a chance to go home to your family, to escape. And now the same people who we helped… now they are attacking us. They’re attacking our character,” he said. “They swore an oath and they’re forgetting about that oath. They’re not putting the country before their party.”
Kinzinger teared up as he thanked the officers for their service—and admonished his party for shirking their democratic responsibilities.
“You guys won. You guys held,” he said. "Many in my party have treated this as just another partisan fight. It's toxic and it's a disservice to the officers and their families."
Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges was trapped in a hallway and attacked by insurrectionists who beat him around the head and tore off his gas mask as he was pinned with his arms at his side, unable to move.
He repeatedly called the attackers “terrorists.”
"The mob of terrorists were shouting 'Heave, ho' and they pushed their way forward. A man in front of me grabbed my baton ... he bashed me in the face and head with it,” he said. “I did the only thing I could do and screamed for help."
Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, who is Black, testified that he repeatedly was called a “nigger” by white rioters as he protected the Capitol. After one woman yelled at him “This n----- voted for Joe Biden,” he said 20 or so joined in to boo him, with some repeating the racial epithet.
Dunn said that as soon as the riot dispersed, he broke down.
“How the blank can something like this happen? Is this America?” he said he remembers shouting. “I began sobbing.”
“More than six months later, January 6 still isn’t over for me,” Dunn said. “I know so many officers continue to hurt both physically and emotionally.”