WASHINGTON – At 2:12 p.m. on Jan. 6, supporters of President Donald Trump began climbing through a window they had smashed on the northwest side of the U.S. Capitol. “Go! Go! Go!” someone shouted as the rioters, some in military gear, streamed in.
It was the start of the most serious attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812. The mob coursed through the building, enraged that Congress was preparing to make Trump’s electoral defeat official. “Drag them out! … Hang them out!” rioters yelled at one point, as they gatherednear the House chamber.
Officials in the House and Senate secured the doors of their respective chambers, but lawmakers were soon forced to retreat to undisclosed locations. Five people died on the grounds that day, including a Capitol police officer. In all, more than 50 officers were injured.
To reconstruct the pandemonium inside the Capitol for the video above, The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and hundreds of videos, some of which were exclusively obtained. By synchronizing the footage and locating some of the camera angles within a digital 3-D model of the building, The Post was able to map the rioters’ movements and assess how close they came to lawmakers – in some cases feet apart or separated only by a handful of vastly outnumbered police officers.
The Post used a facial-recognition algorithm that differentiates individual faces – it does not identify people – to estimate that at least 300 rioters were present in footage taken inside the Capitol while police were struggling to evacuate lawmakers. The actual number of rioters is probably greater, since the footage analyzed by The Post did not capture everyone in the building.
After breaking in on the Senate side of the Capitol, rioters began moving from the ground floor up one level to the chamber itself. Vice President Mike Pence, who had been presiding, was moved to a nearby office at 2:13 p.m. The mob passed by about one minute later.
On the other side of the building, the House briefly recessed and then resumed business in its chamber on the second floor, even as rioters stormed into Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s suite of offices, The Post found. “They’re pounding the doors trying to find her,” one Pelosi staffer said to another, a comment captured on an audio recording at 2:28 p.m.
At approximately 2:40 p.m., a group of lawmakers left the House floor via the Speaker’s Lobby,an adjacent corridor featuring portraits of past leaders of the House. The lawmakers came within sight of an angry mob. The two groups were separated by several police officers and a barricaded glass-paneled door that the rioters were attempting to smash.
“Break it down! Break it down!” rioters chanted, as lawmakers filed out.
Two minutes after the last of the lawmakers had left the corridor, Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt was shot dead by a Capitol Police officer as she began to climb through a broken section of the door.
In the gallery overlooking the chamber, some lawmakers had yet to be evacuated when Babbitt was shot. “I heard the gunshot, a lot of screaming,” recalled Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., who was in the gallery.
By 2:53 p.m., 41 minutes after rioters entered the building through the smashed window, the last member of the last large group of House members to leave had been evacuated and was and headed for a secure location.
– – –
Graphics by The Washington Post’s Aaron Steckelberg, Sarah Hashemi, Osman Malik, Brian Monroe, William Neff, Lauren Tierney and Laris Karklis. Photo research by Nick Kirkpatrick. Additional reporting was contributed by The Washington Post’s Aaron C. Davis, Mike DeBonis, Karoun Demirjian, Paul Kane, Seung Min Kim and Bill O’Leary.
As a print only client, you do not have rights to videos and podcasts.