The aftermath: ‘I don’t trust the people above me to make decisions to bring me home safe’
By about 4 p.m., other agencies had arrived in the rotunda: FBI SWAT teams, police officers from surrounding counties. Law enforcement moved in lines two or three deep, pushing the demonstrators out of the building’s east doors.
With their guns drawn, officers teamed up and began searching the Capitol, clearing rooms one by one. Members of Congress were now huddled with their staff, cowering petrified behind furniture they had piled against their office doors.
The first 150 or so members of the National Guard finally arrived at 5:40 p.m.
“I still cannot fathom why in the midst of an armed insurrection, which was broadcast worldwide on television, it took the Department of Defense over three hours to approve an urgent request for National Guard support,” Sund wrote in his letter. In response to questions for this story, the National Guard sent a timeline that confirmed their 5:40 p.m. arrival and referred ProPublica to a press release stating they worked with Capitol and Metropolitan police “to assist with an immediate response.”
At around 8 p.m., Capitol Police declared the complex secure. It was pitch-black outside by the time the riot squad that fought on the west front reunited. There was little conversation. They sat exhausted on the steps by the Memorial Door, helmets at their feet, staring at each other in disbelief. Some hugged each other. Others cried.
One saw that he had missed 17 calls and nearly 100 text messages. High school friends he hadn’t spoken to in years reached out on Instagram. In text after text, the same words: “I saw the news.” “Call me when you get this.” “I love you.”
The messages made some of the news coverage that came later, in which police were accused of siding with the mob, easier to stomach. He knew nothing he had done that day could be construed as complicit with the rioters. It looked like at least some of his friends and relatives knew it too.
Several officers said they didn’t get home until the early morning hours of the next day. One said when he got home he went straight to his washing machine to put his bear-spray-soaked uniform into a cold-water wash. Another said that he could not get rid of the smell or the itch of the chemicals for days.
For a week afterward, one officer said, he cried nightly. Three Capitol Police officers died in early January: Brian Sicknick, who was beaten over the head with a fire extinguisher; Howard Liebengood, who died by suicide following the riot; and Eric Marshall, who died of cancer four days before the riot. Almost 140 Capitol and Metropolitan police officers were injured, according to a union statement. One had two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs.
A week or so later, McFaden and union chair Gus Papathanasiou met with leadership for the first time since Sund’s resignation on Jan. 7. Acting Chief Pittman, Assistant Chief Chad Thomas and other senior officers were in attendance.
Loyd, the inspector who had thrown punches on the west front, was also there. McFaden had the sense that Loyd was only brought in to defuse tension with the union, which had more questions than leadership had answers.
Pittman acknowledged that the force was in a dark place and a culture change was sorely needed. But McFaden said the acting chief quickly became taciturn. When she was asked where she and her fellow chiefs were during the riot and why they weren’t on the radio, she dodged the question.
Meetings with union leadership usually last at least an hour, but after 30 minutes, McFaden said, Pittman got up to leave for another engagement.
The union leaders were enraged. They turned to Thomas and asked why he wasn’t on the radio that day.
“He said he was trying to do that for like 10 to 15 seconds, and he couldn’t get on the radio,” McFaden said. “This event lasted for hours. … I mean, come on.” Pittman and Thomas did not respond to calls for comment.
It was only through Pittman’s testimony at a closed Congressional briefing on Jan. 26 that most Capitol Police officers learned that the force did in fact have intelligence warnings of possible violence. She admitted that the department failed to adequately act on it.
The officers said they are still waiting for an apology. Many are looking for new jobs.
“Let’s face it. Now the whole world knows where the vulnerabilities of the Capitol are,” said one officer. “I don’t trust the people above me to make decisions to bring me home safe.”
Kirsten Berg and Zipporah Osei contributed reporting.
This article is republished from ProPublica under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.