Police Testify to US Capitol Riot Probe
By Staff, Agencies
Wiping away tears, a police officer told a rapt US congressional hearing Tuesday he thought "this is how I'm going to die" while defending the Capitol on January 6 against a rampaging mob branding him a traitor.
Another recalled how he was beaten unconscious by rioters supportive of then-president Donald Trump and said he "went to hell and back" protecting US lawmakers and the citadel of American democracy.
The gripping accounts served as opening testimony in a landmark hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 attack, which opened with hair-raising videos of the deadly attack.
But it was the dramatic personal recollections of officers under siege by people they described as "terrorists" that set the tone in a closely-watched session.
It was "something from a medieval battle," Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, an immigrant US Army Iraq combat veteran, told the panel, describing how he and colleagues "fought hand to hand, inch by inch, to prevent an invasion" of the building.
"My fellow officers and I were punched, kicked, shoved, sprayed with chemical irritants and even blinded by eye-damaging lasers by a violent mobs who apparently saw us ... as an impediment to their attempted insurrection," Gonell told stunned committee members.
"This is how I'm going to die, defending this entrance," he recalled telling himself.
Trump has dismissed the probe as "fake and highly partisan" and attempted to blame House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for allegedly failing to protect the Capitol from his supporters, accusations echoed by his Republican backers.
"Now that the bipartisan Select Committee is beginning its work, the only tools left in House Republicans' arsenal are deflection, distortion, and disinformation," Pelosi's office hit back in a statement.