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Capitol Police Were Little Defense Against Rioters
By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Despite ample warnings about pro-Trump demonstrations in Washington, U.S. Capitol Police did not bolster staffing on Wednesday and made no preparations for the possibility that the planned protests could escalate into violence, according to several people briefed on law enforcement's response.

The revelations shed new light on why Capitol Police were so quickly overrun by protesters. The department had the same number of officers in place as on a routine day. While some of those officers were outfitted with equipment for a protest, they were not staffed or equipped for a riot.

Once the crowd began to move on the Capitol, a police lieutenant issued an order not to use deadly force, which explains why officers outside the building did not draw their weapons as the crowd closed in. Officers are sometimes ordered against escalating a situation by drawing their weapons if superiors believe doing so could lead to a stampede or a shootout.

In this instance, it also left officers with little ability to resist the crowd. In one video from the scene, an officer puts up his fists to try to push back a crowd pinning him and his colleagues against a door. The crowd jeers “You are not American!” and one man tries to prod him with the tip of an American flag.

“They were left naked,” Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California. said of the police in an interview with AP. “It turns out it was the worst kind of non-security anybody could ever imagine.”

In an interview with The Washington Post, Capitol police chief Steven Sund said he had asked House and Senate security officials ahead of time for permission to request that the D.C. National Guard be placed on standby in case he needed quick backup, but he said he was turned down.

“If we would have had the National Guard we could have held them at bay longer, until more officers from our partner agencies could arrive,” he told the Post. He said his superiors had been uncomfortable with the “optics” of formally declaring an emergency ahead of Wednesday’s demonstration.

The Capitol Police's response have drawn condemnation from lawmakers and prompted the ouster of the department's chief and the Sergeants at Arms of both the House and Senate.

Investigators are particularly focused on why some had apparently accessed areas of the Capitol generally difficult for the public to locate, according to an official.

Larry Rendell Brock, of Texas, and Eric Gavelek Munchel, of Tennessee, who both were photographed with plastic restraints as they broke into the Capitol, were arrested by the FBI on Sunday. Prosecutors said Brock also donned a green helmet, tactical vest and camouflage jacket.

The rioters had more equipment and they weren’t afraid to use it, said Ashan Benedict, who leads the Washington field division for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and was there that day.

“They had apparently more bear spray and pepper spray and chemical munitions than we did,” Benedict said. “We’re coming up with plans to counteract their chemical munitions with some of our own less-than-lethal devices, so these conversations are going on as this chaos is unfolding in front of my eyes.”

Officers have been criticized for their actions after snippets of videos taken by the demonstrators showed some posing for selfies, acquiescing to demands by screaming rioters to move aside so they could stream inside the building.

But other videos show officers trying in vain to keep the crowd from breaking into the building. One disturbing video shows a bloodied Metropolitan police officer screaming for help as he’s crushed by protesters inside the Capitol building. The young officer is pinned between a riot shield and metal door. Bleeding from the mouth, he cries out in pain and screams, “Help!”

In another stunning video, a lone police officer tries to hold off a mob of demonstrators from breaking into the lobby. He fails.

One officer died in the riot and at least a dozen were injured. The officials confirmed that the numbers of officers posted were on par with a routine protest and day where lawmakers would be present.

Capitol Police officials did brief lawmakers ahead of Wednesday, saying they expected large numbers of protesters to attend a rally near the White House, but offered no indication they were making preparations for a movement of the crowd to the Capitol, according to one Republican congressional aide. Still, they advised lawmakers to plan to use the underground tunnels that connect House office buildings to the Capitol.

Benedict was at the bomb scene when Capitol Police captains there told him their officers were being overrun.

He immediately activated the special response team that was standing by and began to call in every ATF agent who works for him in Washington.

When they began entering the Capitol complex at 2:40 p.m., the hallways were packed with protesters.

Eventually, federal agents were able to secure the Capitol Rotunda.

“We just started moving crowds of people out of the Capitol Complex and then going through one by one, each room and rooms off of rooms, to identify friendlies from hostiles,” he said.


Published 08:00 AM, Monday Jan. 11, 2021
Updated 10:32 AM, Monday Jan. 11, 2021

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