Washington, DC – Capitol Police brass held no preparatory meetings with officers to discuss plans ahead of the massive planned Jan. 6 rally for President Donald Trump and were unreachable that day when the demonstration became the Capitol riot that left five people dead.
Four Capitol Police officers who were there when up to 15,000 rioters marched on the U.S. Capitol building told the Associated Press that they couldn’t reach supervisors and had no guidance on what to do.
Some of the officers caught in the melee had never even had riot training.
The officers who told their stories of being overrun by rioters did so on the condition of anonymity because U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) officials have threatened to discipline anyone who talks to a reporters, the Associated Press reported.
They said that Capitol Police leadership gave them almost no warning about the threat of an angry mob rushing the Capitol building despite the fact that the department had allegedly received intelligence from federal authorities about plans for just such an event and requested help from the National Guard and DC police.
Instead, department leadership treated Jan. 6 like any other day with a free speech demonstration and didn’t even give it the kind of attention usually required for any major event in the nation’s capital, the Associated Press reported.
Capitol Police have a 2,300 member department with a budget of about $500 million dollars, but on the day rioters breached the Capitol, the officers said that only the normal complement of police had been scheduled to be on duty.
The officers told the Associated Press they did not have any briefings or meetings on security concerns ahead of the Capitol riot, as is protocol for major events in the city.
“During the 4th of July concerts and the Memorial Day concerts, we don’t have people come up and say, ‘We’re going to seize the Capitol,’” one officer said. “But yet, you bring everybody in, you meet before. That never happened for this event.”
Another Capitol Police officer told the Associated Press he had been trained on handling a large crowds but never received riot or civil disturbance training.
He said he was told to go pick up a riot helmet the morning of the Capitol riot.
“We were under the impression it was just going to be a lot of yelling, cursing,” he told the Associated Press.
When crowds of Trump supporters first began arriving on both sides of the Capitol building, the officers radioed for guidance from their superior officers but didn’t receive a response.
“We were on our own,” one of the officers told the Associated Press. “Totally on our own.”
The officers said that as the chaos grew they received no instructions on how to stop the rioters or how to rescue the members of Congress who were trapped in the building.
Three of the officers told the Associated Press that they never heard then-USCP Chief Steven Sund on the radio during the entire Capitol riot.
It was later learned that Chief Sund had been unreachable because he was sheltering with Vice President Mike Pence in a secure location.
He resigned in disgrace the day after the riot, the Associated Press reported.
His replacement – then-USCP Assistant Chief Yogananda Pittman – was only heard on the radio once during the Capitol riot, according to the officers.
Two officers said they heard Assistant Chief Pittman give the order to “lock the building down” but neither she nor other members of the police department leadership ever followed the order up with any instructions for how they were supposed to do that while so vastly outnumbered, the Associated Press reported.
One of the officers said they ran from one side of the U.S. Capitol building to the other, engaging in hand-to-hand combat against rioters.
Another officer spent three hours responding to calls from fellow officers who needed assistance after they had been injured or immobilized by bear spray or other chemicals from the mob, the Associated Press reported.
In one instance, they said said it took three officers to handcuff one rioter, but then a mob surrounded them and retrieved the man.
The officers said the rioter who had been detained escaped while still in handcuffs, according to the Associated Press.
“The group came and snatched him and took him away in cuffs,” an officer said. “Outside of shooting people, what are you supposed to do?”
The only specific order officers recalled getting from a supervisor came from USCP Lieutenant Tariq Johnson, who told officers over the radio not to use deadly force outside the building.
Lt. Johnson was suspended the day after the riot when video surfaced of him wearing a Make America Great Again (MAGA) hat as he led a line of people in helmets and body armor out of the Capitol building, the Associated Press reported.
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH):
— Abraham Jr. (@AbyTorresJr) January 11, 2021
But videos showed that Lt. Johnson only wore the MAGA hat to get rioters to free some other officers who were trapped.
The Associated Press reported that Lt. Johnson was heard on the radio during the riot repeatedly asking “Does anybody have a plan?”
DC police officers arrived at the Capitol quickly to assist Capitol Police on the exterior of the building at Chief Sund’s request, but it was 5:40 p.m. – more than five hours into the riot – when the first National Guardsmen arrived to assist.
Now-former Chief Sund said he asked for assistance multiple times ahead of the Jan. 6 event but it was denied by the sergeants at arms of the House and Senate because they thought it was a bad look for the U.S. Capitol building.
Both sergeants at arms have since resigned from their posts.
One Capitol Police officer died on Jan. 7 from injuries sustained at the hands of rioters a day earlier.
A second Capitol Police officer who had been in the riot took his own life a couple of days later.
Federal law enforcement agencies and some U.S. military sources have claimed that they issued multiple warnings ahead of the Jan. 6 riot, the Associated Press reported.
But the Capitol Police chief was limited in his ability to get more help without the approval of the sergeants at arms, and they reportedly never ran the request up the Congressional flagpole.
Drew Hamill, deputy chief of staff to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), said Congressional leadership was not informed about Chief Sund’s request for National Guard help in the days ahead of the riot, the Associated Press reported.