Watch Live: Officers give emotional testimony at Capitol riot hearing

The House Select Committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot is holding its first hearing Tuesday, with testimony from four law enforcement officers who defended the building that day. Officers were severely outnumbered, and CBS News has reported that, in total, more than 150 officers were injured during the attack.

The impact persists: Months after the attack, at least 17 police officers remained out of work with injuries sustained on January 6, and some have described ongoing psychological trauma. Two officers died after the assault.

Representative Bennie Thompson, the committee’s chairman, began Tuesday’s hearing with an opening statement, noting that the committee would hear from officers on the frontlines.

“You held the line that day, and I can’t overstate what was on the line: our democracy. You held the line,” Thompson said. “We’re going to revisit some of those moments today, and it won’t be easy. But history will remember your names and your actions.” 

Thompson played a video with various footage of the attack. As scenes of mob violence played onscreen, two of the officers were visibly upset. One, Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, reached for a tissue and wiped tears from his face. 

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, an Army veteran who has deployed to Iraq, said during his opening statement, “On January 6, for the first time, I was more afraid to work at the Capitol than in my entire deployment to Iraq.”

Gonell immigrated from the Dominican Republic, and later became a citizen, he said. “As a child in the Dominican Republic, I looked up to the United States as a land of opportunity,” he said, adding that he fulfilled those goals when he became the first person in his family to graduate college, join the Army and become a police officer. 

“I raised my hand and swore to protect the Constitution of the United States,” he said.

On January 6, as Gonell defended the U.S. Capitol, he said he was beaten with a flagpole and soaked with chemical spray. As a result of his injuries, he said he’d gotten surgery on his right foot, and was told he also needs surgery on his left shoulder, and will need further rehab for possibly more than a year.

Another officer testifying Tuesday, D.C. Metropolitan Police officer Michael Fanone, told CBS News he was “tortured” that day, dragged alone into the crowd, tased and beaten with fists and metal objects. 

He said Tuesday the attack rendered him unconscious, and he suffered a mild heart attack and a brain injury, and continues to deal with trauma from the attack. He said he feared for his life and pleaded with the mob, telling them, “I have kids.” 

He said he believed people in the crowd intended to kill him. “Separated from these other officers, who were only trying to defend the Capitol,” he said, “I no longer posed any type of threat … but yet they tortured me. They beat me. I was struck with a Taser device at the base of my skull.”

While he was attacked, he said Tuesday, he heard chants of “Kill him with his own gun.” He said, “I can still hear those words in my head today.”

During his testimony, Fanone criticized lawmakers who have downplayed the attacks, slamming his fist on the desk and shouting, “The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful.”

He said of the lawmakers, “I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room, but too many are telling me that hell doesn’t exist — or that hell wasn’t actually that bad.”

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

Even as criminal inquiries seek to prosecute those accused of attacking him that day, Fanone said he’s struggled with anxiety from hearing people downplay what happened.

Last month, Fanone met with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and asked him to condemn the 21 House Republicans who voted against giving the police officers who defended the Capitol a congressional medal of honor, and to denounce GOP Congressman Andrew Clyde, who compared the riot to a “normal tourist visit.”

Fanone said he didn’t find McCarthy’s response sufficient. 

“I asked him specifically for a commitment to denounce that publicly. And he said that he would address it at a personal level with some of those members. But again, I think that … as the leader of the House Republican Party, it’s important to hear those denouncements publicly,” Fanone said.

Fanone also said he asked McCarthy to not put “obstructionists” or “the wrong people” on the House Select Committee. 

In the days leading up to the committee’s first hearing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she would block two GOP lawmakers who McCarthy had nominated to serve on the committee, citing the “statements and actions” they had taken. The lawmakers, Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio, were among the 139 House Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Pennsylvania and Arizona. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed Republican Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger to serve on the committee. 

Capitol Police Private First Class Harry Dunn, who is also testifying Tuesday, said he was assaulted and called slurs during the mob attack, which occurred after President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally. 

Dunn joined Fanone at the meeting with McCarthy last month. He said, “We did ask for some commitments to take the special Select Committee seriously. I think we all want the same thing, ultimately, but how we go about getting it, I guess is where the hiccup is.”

Another officer called to testify Tuesday, D.C. Metropolitan Police officer Daniel Hodges, was seen screaming in pain in a now infamous video as a mob of rioters crushed him in a doorway and pressed toward a Capitol entrance. Hodges described to CBS News how a man grabbed at his gas mask and beat his head against the door.

“He was also able to rip away my baton and hit me in the head with it,” Hodges said. “So I definitely considered that that might be it, I might not be able to make it out of there.”

Hodges on Tuesday called the frontlines of the attack “a meat grinder” and said that as his head was “bashed,” 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.”

“I did the only thing I could do and screamed for help,” he said.

One man, Patrick Edward McCaughey III, has been accused of using a police riot shield to pin Hodges to the door, but the man accused of grabbing Hodges’ mask remains on the FBI’s wanted list and has yet to be identified or charged.