Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, one of the most vocally critical law enforcement officers who responded to the Capitol riot, gave some fiery testimony Tuesday morning during the first congressional hearing on the events of January 6.
Fanone described the harrowing and traumatic experience of being physically assaulted as he and other officers responded to the rioting, only to watch members of Congress downplay that trauma in the weeks and months afterward.
“The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful!” Fanone told lawmakers, shouting as he slammed a hand down hard on the table that held his prepared statement.
The officer was one of four law enforcement personnel to deliver prepared remarks and answer questions from the congressional panel convened by House Speaker Democrat Nancy Pelosi. The panelists include seven Democrats and two Republicans: Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
House Minority Leader Republican Kevin McCarthy withdrew all of his nominees to the commission last week after Pelosi rejected two of his picks; both of them had voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election in favour of President Donald Trump.
In his remarks, Fanone explained how he and a partner ran over to the Capitol, even though they had not been assigned to work there, after hearing the desperate pleas of law enforcement over the radio. He recounted seeing one Metropolitan Police commander, Ramey Kyle, “struggling to breathe” in a thick cloud of chemical gas before Kyle picked himself up, straightened his uniform and returned to the line.
“The fighting in the lower west terrace tunnel was nothing short of brutal,” Fanone recalled. “Here I observed approximately 30 police officers standing shoulder to shoulder, four or five abreast, using the weight of their bodies to hold back the onslaught of violent attackers.” When he and his partner offered to relieve some of the other officers of duty, Fanone said, none volunteered, choosing instead to help defend the building and those in it.
At later points, Fanone said that he was grabbed, beaten, repeatedly electrocuted and was stripped of his badge and police radio. There was “a very good chance I would be torn apart or shot with my own weapon,” he said, until he made it known that he had children, soliciting the help of a small number of pro-Trump protesters to get himself to safety.
In the aftermath, Fanone said doctors told him he had experienced a heart attack at the Capitol, and was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“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,” Fanone said.
“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 wasn’t actually that bad,” he added, before raising his voice at the “disgraceful” indifference shown to his colleagues.
He went on: “My law enforcement career prepared me to cope with some of the aspects of this experience. Being an officer, you know your life is at risk whenever you walk out the door, even if you don’t expect other law-abiding citizens to take up arms against you. But nothing — truly nothing — has prepared me to address those elected members of our government who continue to deny the events of that day, and in doing so, betray their oath of office.”