Capitol Police Witnesses Struggle to Explain How Rioters Breached the Capitol on January 6

AP Photo/John Minchillo

On Tuesday, current and former Capitol Police officials testified at a joint hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Rules committees about the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The law enforcement officers claimed that they had been prepared to face a potentially violent protest, but they said the rioters caught them off guard.


“We properly planned for a mass demonstration with possible violence. What we got was a military-style coordinated assault on my officers and a violent takeover of the Capitol building,” former U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) Chief Steven Sund testified. He pushed back on claims that USCP was not prepared for the riot.

“A clear lack of accurate and complete intelligence across several federal agencies contributed to this event and not poor planning by the United States Capitol Police,” Sund argued. “Based on the intelligence that we received, we planned for an increased level of violence at the Capitol and that some participants may be armed, but none of the intelligence that we received predicted what actually occurred.”

Sund claimed that the rioters “came prepared for war.” He said he witnessed rioters beating officers with “fists, pipes, sticks, bats, metal barricades, and flag poles.”

“These criminals came prepared for war,” he insisted. “They came with their own radio system to coordinate the attack, as well as climbing gear and other equipment to defeat the Capitol’s security features.”

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USCP Captain Carneysha Mendoza said the rioters used military-grade gas. She testified that she suffered chemical burns while defending the Capitol on January 6, and those wounds have not yet healed.


“I proceeded to the Rotunda where I noticed a heavy smoke-like residue and smelled what I believed to be military-grade CS gas – a familiar smell. It was mixed with fire extinguisher spray deployed by the rioters. The rioters continued to deploy CS inside the rotunda,” Mendoza testified.

“Officers received a lot of gas exposure, which is a lot worse inside the building versus outside, because there’s nowhere for it to go. I received chemical burns to my face that still have not healed to this day,” she added.

Sund testified that the riot appeared well-coordinated.

“The fact that the group that attacked our west front, attacked our west front… approximately 20 minutes before the event over at the Ellipse ended, which means they were planning on our agency not being at what they call full strength… And then also the fact that we’re dealing with two pipe bombs that were specifically, you know, set off the edge of our perimeter to, what I suspect, draw resources away. I think there was a significant coordination with this attack,” the former USCP chief said.

Robert Contee III, acting chief of the Washington, D.C., Police Department, agreed.

“My view is from the day of the incident. I think there were hand signals that were being used by several of the insurrectionists,” he said. “There were radio communication by several individuals that were involved … I certainly believe it was coordinated.”


Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) asked the officials, “Would you agree that this attack involved white supremacists and extremist groups?” Each of the officials said, “Yes.”

Indeed, members of militia groups like the Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, and the Proud Boys did take part in the riot and some of those who face charges connected to the riot have identified themselves as “white supremacists.” However, this does not mean that the riot proves that Trump supporters are racist or that the motivations behind the attack were racist.

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Contee testified that the Pentagon was “reluctant to send the D.C. National Guard to the Capitol” during the riot. “I was able to quickly deploy [D.C. police] and issue directives to them while they were in the field, and I was honestly shocked that the National Guard could not – or would not – do the same.”

Sund testified that he had no authority to request the assistance of the National Guard without an emergency declaration from the Capitol Police Board.

“It’s a standing rule that we have,” he said. “I cannot request the National Guard without a declaration of emergency from the Capitol Police Board. It’s kind of interesting because it’s very similar to the fact that I can’t even give my men and women cold water on an excessively hot day without a declaration of emergency. It’s just a process that is in place.”


Mendoza testified that police officers had to hold the door shut because rioters had broken it. “After a couple of hours officers cleared the rotunda but had to hold the door closed because it had been broken by the rioters,” she said. “Officers begged me for relief as they were unsure how long they could physically hold the door closed with the crowd continually banging on the outside of the door, attempting to gain reentry. Eventually, officers were able to secure the door with furniture and other objects.”

Much about the attack remains unclear, but this testimony shines an important light on the events of that day. The law-enforcement officials referred to the riot as a “military-style attack,” but the DOJ has not charged any specific rioter with gun possession in the U.S. Capitol. There is no proof that the rioters carried firearms into the U.S. Capitol, but the use of military-grade gas and coordinated attacks on the Capitol may constitute a “military-style attack” as the officials testified.

Americans should absolutely abhor and condemn the Capitol riot, but conservatives should beware of the Democrats’ rhetoric on this. Democrats appear to be laying the groundwork for a domestic “War on Terror” based on the idea that conservatives, Republicans, and those who supported Donald Trump pose a domestic terror threat to the country.


The Capitol rioters should face prosecution to the fullest extent of the law, but Democrats cannot be allowed to use this riot as a pretext to launch government surveillance against conservatives.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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