WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Four police officers who worked to defend the U.S. Capitol from a mob of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters testified Tuesday at the first hearing before a congressional committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 riot.
“This is how I’m going to die, defending this entrance,” Capitol Police Officer Aquilino Gonell told House investigators he could feel himself losing oxygen as he was crushed by rioters as he was defending the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection.
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’d had a heart attack.
Daniel Hodges, also a D.C. 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,” Hodges said.
Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn said one group of rioters, perhaps 20 people, screamed the n-word at him as he was trying to keep them from breaching the House chamber.
Police were overwhelmed when hundreds of Trump supporters intent upon stopping Congress from formally certifying now-President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory stormed the Capitol, smashing windows, fighting with officers and sending lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence scrambling for safety.
More than 535 people face charges arising from the riot including four charged in the attack on Fanone.
The House of Representatives Committee was formed after Senate Republicans blocked the creation of an independent commission to investigate the attack. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, named the committee’s members.
The panel’s chairman, Mississippi Rep. 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.”
Four people died on the day of the violence, including one rioter fatally shot by police and three others who died of natural causes. A Capitol police officer who had been attacked by protesters died the following day.
“We’re going to tell this story from the beginning,” said Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat who sits on the new House panel that is investigating the attack. “The moral center of gravity is these officers who put their lives on the line for us.”
The panel’s first hearing comes as partisan tensions have only worsened since the insurrection, with most House Republicans fiercely opposed the creation of the committee, saying it is politically motivated by Democrats.
Democrats now want to launch the probe — and win public support for it — by reminding people how brutal it was, and how the law enforcement officers who were sworn to protect the Capitol suffered grave injuries at the hands of the rioters.
Pelosi last week rejected two of five Republicans chosen by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for the panel amid concerns they would undermine the committee’s integrity, leading McCarthy to withdraw the three remaining Republicans names.
Others on the committee include Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, both of whom have denounced Trump’s false statements about the election and voted with the Democrats in January to impeach him. Monday evening, the House voted against a resolution offered by the GOP leader to force the members to sit on the panel.
McCarthy has stayed close to Trump since the insurrection and has threatened to pull committee assignments from any Republican who participates on the Jan. 6 panel. On Monday, he called Cheney and Kinzinger, “Pelosi Republicans,” an effort that Cheney immediately called “childish.”
Cheney, who was stripped of her position in the House Republican leadership over her criticism of Trump, is gave one of the two opening statements on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, a group of GOP members plans to hold a news conference about the insurrectionists who were arrested, calling them “prisoners.”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.