‘This is how I’m going to die’: Police officer recalls US Capitol riots

Four officers give harrowing testimony on day one of the investigative hearings

Four police officers who defended the US Capitol from attack by a pro-Trump mob in January gave a harrowing recollection of their experience yesterday, as a committee established to investigate the riots held its first hearing.

Sgt Aquilino Gonell of the US Capitol Police told the Select Committee on Capitol Hill he thought he was going to die when he was crushed while tried to prevent the crowd entering the building.

“I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, ‘This is how I’m going to die – defending this entrance.”

The Iraq war veteran and immigrant from the Dominican Republican said the violence that day was "horrifying and devastating", as he wiped away tears.


Officer Michael Fannone described how Trump supporters seized the shields of police officers and began attacking them, threatened to take his gun and shoot him, and struck him with a taser device at the base of his skull.

“They continued to do so until I yelled out that I had kids,” he said.

He was eventually dragged away to safety but was knocked unconscious.

The hearing was the first into the events of January 6th, which saw thousands of Trump supporters descend on the US Capitol as members of Congress gathered to certify the result of November’s presidential election.

Then president Donald Trump had convened a rally on the same day outside the White House and was later impeached for his role in inciting the riot.

Partisan wrangling

The committee has been embroiled in partisan wrangling from the outset. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had initially proposed an independent commission, modelled on the 9/11 investigation, but Republicans vetoed the proposal, prompting her to form a select committee instead.

Further controversy erupted last week when Ms Pelosi vetoed two Republicans nominated by House minority leader Kevin McCarthy to sit on the panel, prompting the top Republican to boycott the inquiry.

But in a sign of the continuing tensions within the Republican party over the legacy of Mr Trump, two anti-Trump Republicans – Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger – joined the committee.

Delivering an opening statement on Tuesday, Ms Cheney described herself as a conservative and a Republican, but said the American people deserved to know the truth.

“We cannot leave the events of January 6th uninvestigated … We must know what happened here at the Capitol,” she said. “We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House.”

Committee chairman Benny Thompson has not ruled out subpoenaing Mr Trump or members of the former administration, though the former president is likely to cite executive privilege.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent