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Officers give emotional testimony at Capitol riot select committee hearing

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Officers' dramatic testimony kicks off Capitol riot investigation 03:20

The House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot held its first hearing on Tuesday, with emotional testimony from four law enforcement officers who defended the building that day. The officers spoke — at times angrily — about the physical and psychological injuries they sustained and gave a rare, first-hand look at the types of attacks they and their fellow officers suffered.

The officers are among the few who have told their stories in the press, and Tuesday marked the first time they appeared together to give official testimony. 

Representative Bennie Thompson, the committee's chairman, played footage of the attack at the start of the hearing, noting that while it may not be easy for officers to revisit the events of that day, "history will remember your names and your actions."

Two of the officers were visibly upset. Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell reached for a tissue and wiped tears from his face while another, D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, consoled him.

House Select Committee Investigating January 6 Attack On US Capitol Holds First Hearing
U.S. Capitol Police officer Sgt. Aquilino Gonell becomes emotional as he testifies. Getty Images

Gonell said he was beaten with a flagpole and soaked with chemical spray while defending the Capitol. As a result of his injuries, he said had surgery on his right foot, would need surgery on his left shoulder, and will need further rehab for possibly more than a year.

Fanone told CBS News he was "tortured" on January 6, dragged alone into the crowd, tased and beaten with fists and metal objects. He said Tuesday the attack rendered him unconscious and that he suffered a mild heart attack and a brain injury. 

He continues to deal with trauma, and so do his children, after nearly losing their father, he said.

Fanone said he feared for his life and pleaded with the mob, telling them, "I have kids." He said he heard the crowd chant, "Kill him with his own gun," and said, "I can still hear those words in my head today."

During his testimony, Fanone criticized people who have downplayed the attacks.

"What makes the struggle harder and more painful is to know so many of my fellow citizens, including so many of the people I put my life at risk to defend, are downplaying or outright denying what happened. I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room, but too many are now telling me that hell doesn't exist — or that hell actually wasn't that bad."

He slammed his fist on the desk and shouted, "The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful."

Capitol Breach Investigation
Washington Metropolitan Police Department officer Michael Fanone testifies. Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP

Fanone later said he believed some members of the government were responsible for inciting the behavior at the Capitol, and have continued to "propagate those statements," he said. "Things like, this was 1776, or that police officers who fought, risked their lives — and some who gave theirs — were redcoats and traitors," Fanone said. "To me, those individuals are representative of the worst that America has to offer."

Capitol Police Private First Class Harry Dunn, who also testified Tuesday, said he was assaulted and called racial slurs during the mob attack, which occurred after President Donald Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally. 

Dunn said that during the siege, while in conversation with a rioter, he volunteered that he'd voted for Joe Biden. A crowd of about 20 people then surrounded him, he said, screaming and calling him the n-word. After the attack, he sat down with another Black officer and told him about the racial slurs he endured that day. 

U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn becomes emotional. ANDREW HARNIK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

He said he began sobbing, and asked, "Is this America?"

Dunn urged the committee to "get to the bottom of what happened," and compared the events of January 6 to a murder carried out by a "hit man." 

"If a hit man is hired and he kills somebody, the hit man goes to jail," he said. "But not only does the hit man go to jail, but the person who hired them does. There was an attack carried out on January 6th, and a hit man sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that."

Another officer, D.C. Metropolitan Police officer Daniel Hodges, called the frontlines of the attack "a meat grinder." 

Hodges was previously seen in video footage screaming in pain as a mob of rioters crushed him in a doorway and pressed toward a Capitol entrance. He said that as his head was being "bashed" by a rioter, he feared that "at best," he said, he might collapse and become a liability to his colleagues. "At worst," he added, "be dragged down into the crowd and lynched."

He said, "I did the only thing I could do and screamed for help." 

Special Report: House select committee holds first hearing on Capitol riot 07:22

Throughout his opening statement, Hodges repeatedly referred to those in the violent mob as "terrorists." Representative Jamie Raskin asked him why he used that language, in contrast with those who have compared the mob to a group of tourists.

Hodges quipped, "Well if that's what American tourists are like, I can see why foreign countries don't like American tourists." He acknowledged that some may take issue with his terminology, but cited the U.S. law for terrorism, suggesting the activities of those in the crowd fit the definition. 

Prosecutors have so far accused at least three Capitol riot defendants of committing "crimes of terrorism," an allegation that is not itself a criminal charge, but it is a factor that judges can weigh in a criminal case.

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