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US police officers testify on Jan. 6 Capitol attack as riot probe called 'sham'

A view of the US Capitol Building as seen, on July 26, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)

Four US police officers have recounted horrors while giving testimony at the first hearing of the House select committee formed to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol.

On that date, then-US President Donald Trump incited a group of his supporters to seize the US Capitol Building as Congress lawmakers were certifying the victory of Joe Biden in the 2020 US presidential election.

The four police officers by the names of Michael Fanone, Harry Dunn, Aquilino Gonell and Daniel Hodges testified on Tuesday at the first hearing before the nine-member panel.

Fanone, who is a Washington metropolitan police officer, told the panel he was stun-gunned and beaten by attackers.

"I was grabbed, beaten, tased … I was at risk of being stripped of and killed with my own firearm,” he said.

Fanone, who suffered from a heart attack after the incident, pointed out, "I was electrocuted again and again and again with a taser.”

He had told media that the clashes that day amounted to "the most brutal, savage hand-to-hand combat" of my life.

Washington metropolitan police officer hodges testified that, "Terrorists pushed through the line and engaged us in hand-to-hand combat. Several attempted to knock me over and steal my baton. One latched onto my face and got his thumb in my right eye, attempting to gouge it out."
"I couldn't engage anyone fully for the moment I do is when another twenty terrorists move in to attack while I am occupied. It's all we could do to keep ourselves on our feet and continue to fall back. I'm sprayed with a fire extinguisher and a red smoke grenade burned at our feet," he added.

US Capitol police officer Dunn gave testimony that he was targeted with derogatory racial insults by the rioters, many of whom were associated with ultra-nationalist and White supremacist groups.

"One woman in a pink 'MAGA' shirt yelled, 'you hear that, guys, this nigger voted for Joe Biden!' Then the crowd, perhaps around twenty people, joined in, screaming 'boo! Nigger!' no one had ever – ever - called me a 'nigger' while wearing the uniform of a capitol police officer," he said, adding that the racial insults that were meant to strip his dignity had hurt him.

US Capitol police officer Aquilino Gonell testified, “The rioters called me a 'traitor,' a 'disgrace,' and shouted that I … should be 'executed.”

"What we were subjected to that day was like something from a medieval battlefield. We fought hand-to-hand and inch-by-inch to prevent an invasion of the Capitol by a violent mob intent on subverting our democratic process,“ he said.

Gonell, who was emotional at the hearing and reportedly fighting back tears, noted that the night of the attack he could not sleep. "I couldn't sleep because the chemicals reactivated after I took a shower, and my skin was still burning."

Republicans call riot probe 'sham' 

Prior to the first session of the probe, Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy dismissed the investigation, insisting that “Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts."

Trump also described the House fact-finding investigation regarding the Jan.6 Capitol hill attack, which left five people dead and dozens of police officers injured, "a fake and highly partisan" political move.

The nine-member House panel probing the attack is comprised of seven Democrats and two Republicans, namely,  Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.

Cheney and Kinzinger are both vocal critics of Trump.

Trump has been accused by his critics of inciting his supporters to violence by peddling what they call "the big lie" -- Trump's baseless claim that Biden won the presidency through a stolen election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi portrayed the violence, in which rioters clashed with police and sought to hunt down lawmakers, including Pelosi, as an attempt to "overthrow" the government.

Pelosi has instructed the House panel members probing the attack to run "a comprehensive investigation as to who organized this attack, who paid for it, how they nearly succeeded in overthrowing a presidential election, why they did it and how we must organize ourselves to prevent anything like it from ever happening again."

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