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Chicago FOP President Apologizes For Downplaying Attack On U.S. Capitol; Draws Angry Rebuke From National Police Union

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Even after apologizing for his defense of the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in an attack that has now claimed at least five lives, Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara is under fire from the national police union for what it called a "gross mischaracterization" of the riot.

In an interview with WBEZ public radio, Catanzara on Wednesday said he understood the motives behind the storming of the Capitol, which has led to five deaths, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer who died a day after Catanzara falsely claimed "There's no, obviously, violence in this crowd."

Even before Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick died of injuries suffered in the attack, it was public knowledge that rioters had injured several police officers, and a woman had been shot and killed by police as she tried to climb through a window to gain access to the Speaker's Lobby.

That didn't stop Catanzara from claiming the attack on the Capitol had been exaggerated.

"There was no arson, there was no burning of anything, there was no looting, there was very little destruction of property," Catanzara told WBEZ. "It was a bunch of pissed-off people that feel an election was stolen, somehow, some way."

Catanzara also echoed President Donald Trump's baseless claims that the election was stolen.

"I don't have any doubt that something shady happened in this election," Catanzara said. "You're not going to convince me that that many people voted for Joe Biden. Never for the rest of my life will you ever convince me of that. But, again, it still comes down to proof."

However, Catanzara admitted there's no proof of widespread fraud, and said he wouldn't have taken part in the Capitol assault, even though he continued to defend the mob who did.

"It's an inconvenience at this point, is all it is," he said. "This is not some mass insurrection, coup attempt. They're not destroying or burning down the fricking Capitol building. This hyperbole and this emotion that the media is spewing now, like this is some kind of end-of-times scenario, is ridiculous."

Catanzara also said President Trump bears some responsibility for the attack.

"Obviously it has to fall on his doorstep for what kinda happened," he said.

Friday morning, Catanzara apologized to the Chicago FOP for what he called "a lapse in judgement."

"For that I am sorry. I brought negative attention to our Lodge, the FOP family and law enforcement in general," he wrote in a Facebook post. "I was in no way condoning the violence in DC yesterday. My statements were poorly worded. I certainly would never justify any attacks on citizens, democracy or law enforcement. After seeing more video and the full aftermath, my comments would have been different."

Lodge 7 members, As your President, I showed a lapse in judgement yesterday during an interview. For that I am sorry. I...

Posted by Fraternal Order of Police: Chicago Lodge No. 7 on Thursday, January 7, 2021

Catanzara's apology didn't stop the National Fraternal Order of Police from lashing out at him for his original remarks.

"It has come to our attention that John Catanzara, President of FOP Lodge #7 in Chicago, suggested in a media interview that the violent mob of rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol Building on Wednesday, and caused the death of a brother officer -- U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick -- and four other people, was understandable, peaceful and, except for trespassing, law-abiding," National FOP President Patrick Yoes said in a statement.

"There is no question that, in addition to the tragic loss of life, these criminals left a wide swath of damage in the building that is the heart of our democracy and threatened our elected officials, Congressional staff as well as our brother and sister officers," Yoes added. "The National FOP rejects this gross mischaracterization and sees the incident for what it was -- a violent mob of looters and vandals, visiting fear and destruction on one of our nation's most sacred spaces, who should be held accountable for their actions and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has frequently clashed with Catanzara and other leaders of the Chicago FOP, also has condemned Catanzara's comments on the riot.

"This wasn't 'frustration.' It was a violent insurrection. The comments by John Catanzara, Chicago FOP President, either demonstrate clear delusion or reckless disrespect for the rule of law—or both," Lightfoot wrote on Twitter.

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