Meet Three D.C. Police Officers Who Fought For The U.S. Capitol
Meet Three D.C. Police Officers Who Fought For The U.S. Capitol
He had been pushed, shoved and even tased multiple times. He was alone and exhausted.
Lying dazed on the marble steps leading out of the west side of the U.S. Capitol on the afternoon of Jan. 6, D.C. Police Officer Mike Fanone heard bone-chilling words coming from some of President Trump's supporters who were surrounding him.
"I remember guys chanting, 'Kill him with his own gun,'" says Fanone, a 19-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department.
Fanone's experience at the Capitol after pro-Trump mobs stormed it provides a shocking insight into the threats and violence faced by D.C. police officers who rushed to the building after it was breached. Crowds turned their fury on the men in blue, spraying them with mace, throwing fire extinguishers at them, crushing them in tight hallways, and even threatening to kill them.
Fanone, 40, was one of hundreds of D.C. police officers who were called to the Capitol in the early afternoon, just as the mobs — egged on by the president himself, who had just wrapped up a speech on the Ellipse — broke through barriers and engaged with U.S. Capitol Police standing guard outside the building.
It was quickly apparent that those officers were being overrun; by 1 p.m., Acting D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee was formally asked to send reinforcement to help protect the Capitol. It took hours of fighting the much larger crowd, and many D.C. officers suffered injuries. But they managed to stop even more Trump supporters from flooding into the Capitol, and eventually cleared the building entirely. It was a mission none of the officers expected to have, but one that Contee says was performed admirably — and helped save the Capitol.
"It's our worst nightmare really come true, an attack on American democracy right here in the nation's capital. It was horrifying. It was despicable," he says. "Our democracy was under attack, and these members were responsible for restoring democracy in our country."
'They attacked us'
Jan. 6 started somewhat uneventfully for Metropolitan Police Department Officer Daniel Hodges.
At 7:30 that morning, he was posted at 11th Street and Constitution Avenue NW as part of a contingent of D.C. police officers on hand for the pro-Trump protests and rallies expected that day. But some five hours into his shift, the six-year veteran's mission suddenly changed: Get to the U.S. Capitol, and get there as quickly as possible.
Christina Laury, a member of the MPD unit that specializes in recovering illegal guns, was detailed to the Domestic Security Operations division that fateful Wednesday, and was also among the first wave of D.C. officers to arrive at the Capitol. The Pennsylvania native immediately saw what they were up against in securing the a western entrance to the building.
"We just needed as many officers as possible to keep the crowd back," says Laury, 32. "I don't think we even understood the magnitude and the amount of people that were actually there."
And it wasn't just the size of the crowd, she says, but also the weapons they were using against the very police officers many of them had long professed to support.
"They had bear mace, which is literally used for bears. They're spraying it on us human beings," she says. "I got hit with it plenty of times that day and it just seals your eyes shut. You just would see officers going down trying to douse themselves with water, trying to open their eyes up so they can see again."
Hodges was victim of the same violence when he first arrived at the Capitol. Before even getting to the entrance his platoon was charged with protecting, the officers all had to push through the hostile crowd. He was pelted with insults, fists and objects, and one Trump supporter even tried to gouge out Hodges' eye.
"We when we were marching up through the crowd, they were all shouting at us, calling us traitors, telling us to remember our oath, stuff like that," he says. "They attacked us. Fists, trying to steal our equipment, pushing, hitting, kicking, that kind of thing."
At one point, Hodges said he was hit in the head with an object thrown by a rioter standing on the temporary inaugural stand above; he was wearing his helmet, so he was able to keep moving forward. But those improvised projectiles from above were a risk to many police officers that day.
On Thursday, federal prosecutors announced they had charged retired Pennsylvania firefighter Robert Sanford with throwing a fire extinguisher at three Capitol Police officers — one of whom did not have a helmet, and was hit. Brian Sicknick, the 42-year-old officer who died during the insurrection, is thought to have been hit by a fire extinguisher himself.
Law enforcement officers shot one of the rioters, Ashli Babbit, who died. Three others died of medical emergencies.
Hodges eventually made it to the entrance he was charged with protecting, a doorway located halfway down a narrow hallway heading into the Capitol. It was packed with rioters and filled with tear gas; police officials have taken to calling it the "hallway of hell." It was there that Hodges was pinned between the mob and the door.
"I had my arms pinned at that point, I wasn't able to defend myself. You see someone in the video who rips my gas mask off, he's also able to rip away my baton and beat me with it," he says. "At that point I was sucking in [tear] gas, so I was pretty disabled."
The video of him being trapped against that doorway quickly went viral.
'It was some medieval s***'
As he drove into D.C. from Virginia on Wednesday morning, Fanone started hearing rumblings of the trouble that would eventually engulf the Capitol. The longtime officer had no specific role to play during the planned protests; as a longtime drugs and violent crime cop, Fanone could just have well spent his day doing his usual work.
"The assumption probably would have been that I sat at my desk that day, but, the hell if that was going to f***ing happen," says Fanone, who was raised in Northern Virginia but graduated from Ballou High School in D.C.
Fanone and his partner, Jimmy Albright, made their way to the Capitol, which they entered on the southern side closest to the Longworth House Office Building. He immediately entered a scene like he had never seen in his decades of policing; without any specific orders in place, he made his way to where he heard distress calls — the hallway of hell.
Once he got to the hallway, Fanone helped pull Hodges to safety. He then joined a line of police who were pushing the rioters back. "It was some medieval s***," he says.
"It was like the real-life 300, minus the six-pack abs, which none of us have," he says, referring to the violent action film about Spartans waging war in ancient Greece.
"We pushed this group back, 30 guys versus 15,000. We pushed them back through the doorway, and we just kept pushing them until we got to the threshold of the [hallway]."
But once Fanone emerged out of the hallway, he found himself alone in a sea of angry Trump supporters. He was knocked to the ground.
"I remember thinking about the movie Black Hawk Down when the pilot gets stripped from the cockpit because guys were grabbing gear off my vest, they ripped my badge off of me, and people were trying to get my gun, and they grabbed my ammunition magazines," he says. "I remember trying to retain my gun, I remember guys chanting, 'Kill him with his own gun.'"
Fanone was tased at least a half-dozen times. He says he considered using his gun to defend himself, but knew rioters would likely turn the gun on him. So he pleaded for his life.
"At one point, I decided I could appeal to someone's humanity in this crowd. And I said I have kids," he recalls. "Fortunately, I think it worked. Some people did start to protect me, they encircled me and tried to prevent people from assaulting me."
'We're the ones who saved Congress'
Fanone's partner eventually pulled him to safety. He ended up in the hospital, where he was told he had had a mild heart attack. Officer Daniel Hodges, who had been pinned against a door in the hallway of hell, didn't suffer any broken bones or internal bleeding, but admits he walked like a 90-year-old man for a week. Officer Christina Laury also escaped serious injury.
All three say they are fortunate to have come out of the chaos at the Capitol alive. And they all credit the other police officers— and even some of their commanders, who also stood on the front line — who fought alongside them for making that happen. (They also point to other moments of heroism, like Black U.S. Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who steered an angry crowd away from the Senate chamber at a critical moment.)
"The unity that I experienced, and the bravery. This isn't about me, this is about all those officers. I'm beyond proud, I'm just speechless about it," says Laury.
Lawmakers and residents have raised concerns about how well the Capitol Police and MPD prepared for the event, which the president had promoted to his followers. Contee says police did not know the extent of what Trump's supporters would do at the Capitol. The U.S. Capitol Police has suspended three of its officers and is investigating more than a dozen for their actions that day, and police officers from multiple states are also being looked at for their participation in the riots. Contee says he's seen no evidence of MPD officers taking part in the chaos.
Critics also point out how light the response was compared to the heavily militarized police presence in response to Black Lives Matter protests over the summer, when military-style vehicles and officers in riot gear filled the streets. Some of those troops were called in by Trump, who routinely vilified the protesters.
"I had conspiracy theorists and everyone you could think of yelling at me, saying, 'Why are you doing this, you're the traitor,'" recalls Hodges. "We're not the traitors. We're the ones who saved Congress that day, and we'll do it as many times as necessary."
Fanone says he doesn't want to get into what may have motivated Trump's supporters, many of whom have long claimed they back police. He's thankful he got out alive, but he's angry that that was ever in question.
"The ones in the crowd that somehow appealed to their better angels and offered me some assistance, thank you," he says. "But f*** you for being there."
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.
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