WASHINGTON – An officer was hit with a bat. Another was struck with a flagpole. A third was pinned against a statue. A fourth was clobbered with a wrench. One became stuck between two doors amid a frenzied mob. Many were sprayed with bear mace.
The number of injuries suffered by police as they attempted to fend off supporters of President Donald Trump who seized the U.S. Capitol last week runs long. They include swollen ankles and wrists, bruised arms and legs, concussions and irritated lungs.
How those injuries occurred is equally varied: pushed down stairs, trampled by rioters, run over in a stampede, punched with fist.
More than 58 D.C. police officers and an unknown number of U.S. Capitol Police officers were injured in the hours-long riot and assault on Jan. 6 as lawmakers were formalizing the election victory for Joe Biden as president. It was a battle in which police were outnumbered. One Capitol Police officer died in circumstances that remain unclear.
“I’ve talked to officers who have done two tours in Iraq, who said this was scarier to them than their time in combat,” acting D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee III said Monday after speaking to an officer who was discharged from the hospital after being beaten and injured with a stun gun.
“He’s obviously very shaken, very appalled, very angry,” Contee said, adding that rioters stole items from the officer and, he thinks, tried to get his firearm.
Videos circulating on the internet show horrific scenes, including one of an officer, identified by the police union as from the D.C. force, being dragged down stairs outside the Capitol and beaten by people with clubs, a crutch and a pole with an American flag attached. The officer was rescued by other officers swinging batons.
Another video, first shown on CNN, shows a D.C. officer pinned between two doors in a Capitol vestibule, screaming in pain as rioters try to push his gas mask over his head as he was being crushed between colleagues and demonstrators in the narrow entryway. Some rioters wrested away the officer’s shields and used them to push back against the police.
It was not a brief moment. A longer version of that video shows hundreds of rioters pushing for more than 30 minutes against D.C. police officers, who had rushed to help their colleagues on the Capitol force. Rioters shouted en masse, “Heave ho,” as they pushed in coordinated waves, screaming and cheering.
“It makes me sick to my stomach to see that video,” Contee said. “That officer, obviously, he was afraid for his life.”
D.C. police said on Monday that one District officer remained hospitalized. They described many of the injuries as sprains and bruised arms and legs, but many others appear far more serious and caused by repeated blows from sticks, poles and clubs and laser pointers shined into officers’ eyes.
The Capitol Police, which had 1,400 officers at the building, also have members who suffered injuries, although agency officials did not respond to inquiries on Monday. Union representatives for the Capitol Police also did not respond to questions.
In a statement the day after the riot, then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned Friday, said officers were attacked with metal pipes, chemical irritants and other types of weapons. He said several Capitol Police officers were hospitalized with serious injuries.
Three people among the demonstrators died during what police have described as “medical emergencies.” Authorities said a Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick, died of injuries sustained in the assault. Another Capitol Police officer who had been at the Capitol during the riot took his own life on Saturday.
Greggory Pemberton, chairman of the D.C. police union, called the riot “a nightmare.” He said one officer suffered an apparent heart attack after he was hit six times with a stun gun, and another officer lost the tip of his right index finger, possibly when it was crushed.
He said many rioters came prepared, with enhanced versions of munitions carried by police. Bear spray, for example, is a highly concentrated version of OC spray, also referred to as tear gas, that is far stronger than the version police use to tame violent demonstrations.
“It has a really nasty effect,” Pemberton said, noting it can burn lungs. He said that although all but one injured D.C. officer are out of the hospital, many face an extended recovery period.
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The Washington Post’s Justin Jouvenal and Katie Mettler contributed to this report.