Officer injuries including concussions show extent of violence at Capitol Riot

Feb 12, 2021 Travel News

Officer injuries including concussions show extent of violence at Capitol Riot

An officer lost the tip of his right index finger. Others were hit in the head with baseball bats, flag poles and pipes. Another lost consciousness after rioters used a metal barrier to push her up the stairs as they attempted to reach the Capitol steps in the Jan.6 assault.

“We don’t have to hurt you – why are you standing in our way?” a rioter told the officer helping him up, according to court documents. She tried to regroup, but lost consciousness upon making an arrest a few hours later. Doctors determined she had a concussion.

Just over a month after the siege on Capitol Hill, a fuller picture of injuries suffered by police has emerged from court documents, images revealed during the impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump, stories provided by officers and interviews with law enforcement officials and experts.

The assault on Capitol Hill resulted in one of the worst days of injury to law enforcement in the United States since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. At least 138 police officers – 73 from the Capitol Police and 65 from the Department Washington Metropolitan Police – were injured, departments said. They ranged from bruises and lacerations to more serious damage such as concussions, broken ribs, burns and even a mild heart attack.

Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick has been killed, and investigators are increasingly wondering if chemical irritants were a factor in his death, according to a senior enforcement official. Capitol Police said in a statement that Officer Sicknick died of injuries sustained “while physically engaging with protesters.” Two officers involved in the response died by suicide, local police said.

The number of people injured does not represent the dozens, if not the hundreds, of officers that enforcement officials estimate will suffer in the coming years with post-traumatic stress disorder and the dozens who likely contracted. the coronavirus from unmasked Trump supporters who invaded Capitol Hill, experts and officials said.

At least 38 Capitol Hill police officers have tested positive for or were exposed to the coronavirus, Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island and House impeachment official said Thursday. Nearly 200 members of the National Guard deployed to protect the Capitol in the weeks following the siege have also tested positive, he said.

“If you’re a cop and you fight, it might be five minutes, but these guys fought for four to five hours,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a goal-oriented organization. non-profit that advises across the country on management and tactics.

“You’d be hard pressed to find another day in history like this,” he said, “when police encountered this level of violence at an event.”

The horror of the siege – which officers called “medieval” due to the brutal hand-to-hand combat and the use of blunt objects as weapons – received renewed attention this week during Mr. Trump. House officials have repeatedly raised the wounds, revealing new videos and audio to claim Mr. Trump instigated his supporters to invade Capitol Hill while lawmakers certified his electoral loss.

In Thursday’s trial, Mr Cicillin listed a litany of injuries that exposed the effects of the siege on officers: concussions, sore lungs and injuries from repeated beatings from bats, sticks and clubs.

“The Capitol police also suffered injuries that will accompany them for the rest of their lives,” he said.

Washington police officers who had served in Iraq said the Capitol riot “was scarier to them than their time in combat,” Cicillin said, citing Metropolitan Police Chief Robert J. Contee III.

Mr. Cicillin then broadcast snippets of rioters shouting at the Capitol officers, “Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump! Traitor, traitors, traitors!

Neither department provided details on the types of injuries or the number of agents who may have contracted the coronavirus. But a small portion of the injuries are serious and will require months to recover, said Patrick A. Burke, executive director of the Police Foundation in Washington, DC.

“The majority are bruises and sprains, but one officer suffered a mild heart attack after being repeatedly hit with a stun gun and having to be pulled out of the crowd,” Burke said. “Others had laser pointers to their eyes, which can cause long-term damage.”

Estimates vary on the number of rioters who surrounded or entered the Capitol on January 6, but an examination of the images shows that at least thousands invaded the building. In addition to blunt objects, some were armed with stun guns, bear bombs and plastic handcuffs.

At one point, a rioter took a fire extinguisher and slammed it to the ground. A loud explosive explosion sounded and white powder from the extinguisher filled the air.

“The rioters and officers were momentarily shocked, and everyone stepped back,” according to court documents. The rioters briefly calmed down and left the area, court papers said, though some made their way moments later to the Senate, where lawmakers had recently fled.

According to the Justice Ministry, 219 rioters have been charged and dozens more are expected to be charged in the coming weeks.

Lawyers for the officers not only blamed the rioters, but also accused the police commanders of failing to properly train and equip their forces for such an attack, while acknowledging that the siege was highly unusual.

About 170 of the approximately 1,200 Capitol Hill police officers on duty at the time of the attack were equipped with riot gear. Few of the other officers had gas masks or other protective gear.

Some without helmets suffered brain damage, one officer had two cracked ribs, two broken spinal discs and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake, Gus Papathanasiou said., the president of the Capitol Police Union.

Of the estimated 2,000 total police officers on Capitol Hill, fewer than 200 had received recent training to deal with the protests, Papathanasiou said.

“We had officers responding that day who had not been trained in riot control for over 15 years,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Capitol Police did not immediately return an email requesting comment. Its leaders recognized the mistakes of the commanders, including in their preparation.

In a video released last week to mark a month since the attacks, Yogananda D. Pittman, acting Capitol Police chief, said his top priority was dealing with the police.

“Our healing has barely started,” she said.

“The damage goes beyond their physical injuries,” she added, promising advice to officers who needed it. “What happened was traumatic.”

But in a sign of continued reverberations from headquarters, the leadership of the Capitol Police Union on Thursday called on its officers to approve a vote of no confidence against the leadership of their department.

Despite the richness of the video of the riot, the construction of a criminal case on the death of Agent Sicknick proved difficult, according to the senior law enforcement official.

Although law enforcement officials initially said Constable Sicknick was struck by a fire extinguisher, law enforcement sources and investigators disagree as to whether he was hit. Medical experts said he did not die of blunt trauma, according to a law enforcement official.

Investigators found little evidence to support the attack with the fire extinguisher as the cause of death, the official said. Instead, they increasingly suspect that Agent Sicknick was sprayed on his face with some sort of irritant, like a sledgehammer or bear spray, the law enforcement official said.

While police view irritants as a non-lethal deterrent for crowd control, they can cause physical reactions and disorientation that can lead to injury.

The development, reported earlier by CNN, complicated efforts to arrest suspects in Officer Sicknick’s death, as police and rioters used spray cans during the siege. It is difficult to prove who sprayed the irritant on Agent Sicknick.

President Nancy Pelosi introduced a bill on Thursday recognizing the Capitol Police and other agencies that provided security on Jan.6 with Congressional gold medals, the highest honor in Congress, she said. stated in a letter.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Katie benner and Shaila Dewan contribution to reports.