Capitol Hill riot: Police officers tell hearing they thought they would die and recall racist abuse

ITV News Correspondent Robert Moore reports on the emotionally charged testimony of officers who defended the US Capitol

Police officers have told of how they thought they would die and were racially abused as they defended the US Capitol during the January 6 insurrection.

“This is how I’m going to die, defending this entrance,” Capitol Police Officer Aquilino Gonell recalled thinking as he testified at the emotional opening hearing of the congressional panel investigating the violence.

Sgt Gonell told House investigators he could feel himself losing oxygen as he was crushed by rioters – supporters of former President Donald Trump – as he was defending the Capitol in Washington DC.

New footage from police officers' body worn cameras was shown during the hearing

Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, who rushed to the scene, told the new House committee investigating the attack that he was “grabbed, beaten, tased, all while being called a traitor to my country".

Doctors later told him he had had a heart attack.

US Capitol Police Sgt Aquilino Gonell said he thought he would die during the insurrection. Credit: Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP

Daniel Hodges, also a DC police officer, said he remembers foaming at the mouth as rioters crushed him between two doors and bashed him in the head with his own weapon, injuring his skull.

“I did the only thing I could do, scream for help,” Mr Hodges said.

Watch Robert Moore's report from inside the US Capitol on January 6

Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn said one group of rioters, perhaps 20 people, screamed racial slurs including the n-word at him as he was trying to keep them from breaching the House chamber.

The new committee is launching its probe with a focus on the law enforcement officers who protected themThe officers emotionally detailed the horror of their experiences, their injuries and the lasting trauma as they begged the politicians to investigate the attack.

They wiped away tears and paused to compose themselves as they spoke.

Washington Metropolitan Police Department officer Michael Fanone testifies during the House select committee Credit: Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP

Rebuking Republican politicians who have resisted the hearings, Mr Fanone said: “I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room.”

Pounding his fist on the table in front of him, he said: “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.”

The panel’s chair, Mississippi Representative Bennie Thompson played video of the attack and told the police officers: “History will remember your name.”

He said the rioters “came ready for a fight, and they were close to succeeding”.

Mr Thompson added: “There’s no place for politics and partisanship in this investigation.”

Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on the panel, gave opening remarks after Mr Thompson — an effort by Democrats to appear as bipartisan as possible.

She expressed “deep gratitude for what you did to save us” and said they would not be forgotten.

“The question for every one of us who serves in Congress, for every elected official across this great nation, indeed, for every American is this: Will we adhere to the rule of law, respect the rulings of our courts, and preserve the peaceful transition of power?” Ms Cheney asked.

“Or will we be so blinded by partisanship that we throw away the miracle of America?”

Liz Cheney questions witnesses before the House select committee hearing Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Pool via AP

The House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, withdrew the participation of other Republicans last week after Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of them, saying their “antics” in support of Mr Trump, and his lies that he won the election, were not appropriate for the serious investigation.

On Monday evening, the House voted against a resolution offered by the GOP leader to force his chosen members on to the panel.

Mr McCarthy has stayed close to Mr Trump since the insurrection and has threatened to pull committee assignments from any Republican who participates on the January 6 panel.

He has called Ms Cheney and Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger, who is also sitting on the committee, “Pelosi Republicans”, which Ms Cheney has dismissed as “childish”.

Ahead of the hearing on Tuesday, Mr McCarthy again called the process a “sham” and said Ms Pelosi only wants the questions asked “that she wants asked”.