By Holmes Lybrand and Hannah Rabinowitz, CNN
The Justice Department this week released a three-hour video of a battle between rioters and the police at the US Capitol Building on January 6 where rioters brandished weapons, officers were viciously beaten, and a member of the mob died on Capitol steps.
The assault on the Lower West Terrace was one of the most violent confrontations between Capitol Police and the crowd. Officers held the line until the building was cleared without letting rioters inside. Some officers have since said they did not know the Capitol had already been breached in other areas.
The video, taken from a Capitol security camera, does not have sound. It starts as officers retreat, helping each other as they stumble inside and washing their eyes out with water from chemical spray. Rioters crowd in behind them, coordinate efforts to attack and push through in infamous moments that have haunted the public, and officers, ever since.
The Justice Department released the videos after CNN and other outlets sued for access. It is the longest video from the riot released by the government thus far.
Once rioters invaded the platform built for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, every officer on it retreated into the tunnel to make their stand, shooting projectiles at rioters as they begin to enter. Members of the crowd climbed on top of each other, swinging fists and poles at the police. Brawls broke out throughout the assault, with rioters punching and kicking at officers on the front line.
Inside the tunnel, rioters pushed police further back, jabbing at them with flag poles and hitting them with a baton, spraying pepper spray, taking riot shields and crushing an officer in a door all while banging against the walls and cheering as they filmed the assault on their phones.
Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone was pulled out of the police line and into the crowd by a rioter who had his arm around his neck. The video shows Fanone eventually falling down and disappearing into the mass of rioters, where he said he was tased in the neck, beaten with a flagpole and heard rioters screaming “kill him with his own gun.” Fanone said he suffered a heart attack and fell unconscious during the attack.
Police were able to push the rioters to the edge of the tunnel’s entrance over half an hour into the assault, using pepper spray and their batons against the crowd. Still, after a long standoff with police, the rioters began a second attack on the line of officers.
At the entrance of the tunnel, rioter and QAnon supporter Rosanne Boyland lay on the ground. She had died of an accidental overdose, according to DC’s chief medical examiner. Heeding her friends’ call for help, prosecutors say two officers waded into the crowd to help Boyland.
The two officers were knocked down and dragged into the mob where they were viciously beaten with an upside-down American flag and other weapons. The attack landed one officer in the hospital with staples in his head to stop the bleeding, and the other with injuries to his face and shoulder according to court documents.
Weapons used by rioters
In the grueling attack, rioters not only used weapons but also whatever they could get their hands on to attack the police, jabbing them with metal poles, throwing furniture and an audio speaker, spraying a fire extinguisher and pepper spray, using crutches to hit the police, and assaulting the officers with fists and feet.
The rioters also used items taken from the police, including riot shields which they continued to pass up their ranks to push against the officers, and batons which they assaulted police with. At one point in the video, a person can be seen even throwing a firework at the line of officers.
Prosecutors have arrested and charged dozens of rioters for their part in the grizzly battle inside the Lower West Terrace tunnel.
Robert Morss, who prosecutors allege planned to start his own militia, is being held in jail until he faces trial after a judge slammed him for using his training as an Army Ranger to help organize and lead the mob inside the tunnel. Morss is charged with eight other men, including Patrick McCaughey, who was captured in a viral video crushing Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges in a door, and Federico Klein, a former Trump State Department official. All nine have pleaded not guilty.
Albuquerque Head, who allegedly dragged Fanone out into the crowd, has also been charged in the attack. So has Daniel Rodriguez, who prosecutors say tased Fanone in the neck. They, too, have pleaded not guilty.
Jeffrey Sabol, Jack Whitton and Ronald McAbee are part of an indictment with six other rioters who allegedly worked together to drag officers into the crowd. Whitton later boasted to friends, saying that “I fed him to the people,” referring to the officer, according to court filings. They haven’t yet entered a formal plea.
Two of the defendants who were part of the tunnel scene have already been sentenced. Devlyn Thompson, who admitted to throwing a speaker at police officers and hitting an officer in the hand with a baton, was sentenced to nearly four years in jail. Robert Palmer, who used a fire extinguisher, a wooden plank and a pole to attack police, was sentenced to more than five years in prison. Both pleaded guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon.
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