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In Committee Hearing, U.S. Capitol Police Sergeant Recalled His Fear During The Riot

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

On Capitol Hill, the first House select committee hearing on the January 6 Capitol insurrection has wrapped up. First responders described harrowing and often terrifying scenes. And we'll warn you that some of this audio may be disturbing.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Four of the officers who defended the Capitol that day were called to recount their experiences. And they did so in visceral, emotional detail. U.S. Capitol Police sergeant and Iraq war veteran Aquilino Gonell spoke first. He wiped away tears as he described his fear.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AQUILINO GONELL: On January 6, for the first time, I was more afraid to work at the Capitol than my entire deployment to Iraq.

CHANG: He recalled being crushed by the mob.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GONELL: I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, this is how I'm going to die - defending this entrance.

CHANG: Washington Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone also spoke.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MICHAEL FANONE: I was grabbed, beaten, tased, all while being called a traitor to my country.

SHAPIRO: Footage from his police camera was played for the committee. In it, you can hear him begging not to die, saying he has kids.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLICE CAMERA FOOTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I got him. I got him.

FANONE: You can't do this. I got kids.

SHAPIRO: Fanone also made his frustration over some of the responses to investigating the insurrection very clear.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FANONE: 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. The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful.

CHANG: Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn also spoke about the pain he felt from racist remarks that rioters shouted at him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HARRY DUNN: I sat down on a bench in the rotunda with a friend of mine who was also a Black Capitol Police officer and told him about the racial slurs I endured. I became very emotional and began yelling, how the blank could something like this happen? Is this America? I began sobbing.

SHAPIRO: As for the committee members, the only two Republicans on the panel denied accusations of a partisan exercise that have come from other leaders in their caucus. Here's GOP Congressman Adam Kinzinger.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ADAM KINZINGER: We still don't know exactly what happened. Why? Because many in my party have treated this as just another partisan fight. It's toxic, and it's a disservice to the officers and their families, to the staff and the employees on the Capitol complex, to the American people who deserve the truth and to those generations before us who went to war to defend self-governance.

SHAPIRO: Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming indicated that the actions of the Trump administration are very much in the scope of what they are looking into.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIZ CHENEY: We must know what happened here at the Capitol. We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.