Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell said a decades-long career in the military and law enforcement did not prepare him for what happened on Jan. 6. He was one of four members of the Metropolitan Police Department and U.S. Capitol Police who testified about their experiences before the House select committee appointed to investigate the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“To be honest, I did not recognize my fellow citizens who stormed the Capitol on January 6, or the United States they claimed to represent,” he said. That day, said Gonnell, an Army veteran, “I was more afraid to work in the Capitol than in my entire deployment to Iraq.”
He described being accused by rioters of betraying his oath, of choosing his paycheck over his loyalty to the U.S. Constitution “even as I defended the very democratic process that protected everyone in the hostile crowd.” Some suggested he be executed. He and fellow officers were punched, kicked, shoved, sprayed with chemical irritants, blinded by lasers.
He heard: “Trump sent us,” “Pick the right side,” “We want Trump,” from the crowd. It appeared that many of the attackers had law enforcement or military experience, he said.
His fellow officers are still dealing with mental and physical trauma, more than six months after the attack. He said he is still trying to recover from injuries to his hands, left shoulder, left calf and right foot. He will need multiple surgeries.
“We held the line to protect our democratic process — because the alternative would have been a disaster.,” he said. “We are not asking for medals or recognition, we just want justice and accountability.”
“I hope everyone has the courage and conviction to investigate what happened and why,” he added.
Stream your PBS favorites with the PBS app: https://to.pbs.org/2Jb8twG
Find more from PBS NewsHour at https://www.pbs.org/newshour
Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2HfsCD6