US Capitol police chief admits 'we didn't expect riotous mob'

  • Video report by ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo

The police chief who oversaw the failed operation to contain rioters in Washington DC last week admits his officers underestimated the scale of the deadly riots.

Crowds of angry Donald Trump supporters protested the election result – encouraged by their president – but turned violent as they approached the US Capitol on Wednesday last week.

Five people died, including a police officer, and many have questioned how the Capitol’s security was overrun and bypassed by rioters storming into the building.

Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who has announced he will resign his post, told ITV News in his first on-camera interview since the riots that he and his officers did not expect to be faced with such violence.

“We expected to have large crowds,” he said.

“We didn’t expect to have a violent riotous mob like we did come prepared with the type of equipment that they had, with the weapons that they had, and immediately attack our officers when they arrived at our perimeter.”

Asked if they should have expected it, he said: “In what sense? We monitor the intelligence and the information we had [suggested] we may see some additional violence but not that type of violence.”

Messages unearthed by ITV News, posted online in the days before the rally, reveal that protesters had publicly disclosed their plans to storm the Capitol buildings, which they referred to as "Our House".

One post said "GOTTA OVERWHELM THOSE BARRICADES AND COPS", while another wrote "STORM THE GATES!!!, uncovered with the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

Among other messages were "We just have to get past the barricades and they'll panic and try to flee" and "there are side doors that visitors use that are normal doors”.

Protesters are held at gunpoint by police after they stormed the US Capitol on Tuesday. Credit: AP

Then, on the day itself, as Trump began delivering his opening speech, one poster commented: "He needs to give orders. Like storm congress and citizens arrest..."

The crowds then swarmed the officers, and Sund said he feels they “could have had more support” had the National Guard been called for “ahead of time”.

He said he requested that the National Guard be put on standby days before the riot, but security officials turned him down.

“I think that could have helped,” he added.

He said that the “open campus” of the US Capitol should now be reconsidered. He added "there is extensive planning going on" to prevent further rioting on Inauguration Day.

Frame-by-frame analysis of ITV News footage filmed inside and outside the Capitol buildings has identified key agitators among the crowd.

It has also confirmed the level of planning and supervision of the protest group, and the failings of the police operation. It shows police officers were:

  • Operating with inadequate direction, overwhelmed by protestors, sometimes several dozen-to-one, with one activist shouting "you're outnumbered" before the crowd surged into the Capitol buildings;

  • Ill-equipped and unprepared for a riot, some using truncheons and without riot gear to control the protestors, who were receiving direction about where to go from leading members;

  • Attempting to negotiate with protestors, in contrast to the heavy-handed methods used during Black Lives Matter rallies.

"As the chief of an agency you never want to see this happen,” Sund told ITV News.

“This has been a tough time for our agency. It's regrettable, it's something tough.

“Our officers succeeded in keeping every member of Congress safe, they were able to go back into legislation.

“But to see that happen to a facility that we cherish as much as we do, I take a lot of responsibility for that."