On Jan. 6, D.C. police officer Michael Fanone was swarmed by a pro-Trump mob and dragged down the Capitol steps, suffering a mild heart attack and a concussion as he was shocked with a stun gun and beaten.
In the months since, Fanone said it has been “difficult” to listen to politicians like former president Donald Trump, who last month falsely claimed that rioters were actually “hugging and kissing” police, downplay the severity of the insurrection.
“It’s been very difficult seeing elected officials and other individuals kind of whitewash the events of that day or downplay what happened,” Fanone told CNN’s Don Lemon on Tuesday night. “Some of the terminology that was used, like ‘hugs and kisses’ and ‘very fine people,’ is very different from what I experienced and what my co-workers experienced on the 6th.”
In an emotional interview on “CNN Tonight,” Fanone described in vivid detail the terror he experienced defending the Capitol from a mob intent on stopping certification of the election, and called out elected officials who have tried to obscure that reality — a position that some GOP officials have embraced as they seek to defend Trump.
“I think it’s dangerous,” Fanone said after Lemon asked him specifically about Trump’s comments last month. “It is very much not the experience I had on the 6th. I experienced a group of individuals who were trying to kill me to accomplish their goal.”
Fanone, a 40-year-old who joined the force after 9/11, was among the 850 D.C. police officers who responded on Jan. 6 as rioters threatened to overwhelm the Capitol Police. He joined a group of officers at the West Terrace facing what he described to The Washington Post as a “medieval battle scene.”
Someone in the crowd grabbed Fanone by the helmet and dragged him down the stairs. Then, according to federal prosecutors, a 38-year-old rioter from California named Daniel Rodriguez shocked Fanone with a stun gun, triggering a mild heart attack. Another man, Thomas F. Sibick, is charged with assaulting him.
“I experienced the most brutal, savage hand-to-hand combat of my entire life, let alone my policing career, which spans almost two decades” Fanone told CNN. “This was nothing I had ever thought would be a part of my law enforcement career.”
Fanone said in the months since Jan. 6, he’s suffered PTSD and other psychological fallout from the experience as he’s also battled a traumatic brain injury. At least two police officers who were at the Capitol died by suicide in the wake of the insurrection; dozens were injured and one officer who was exposed to chemical irritants died the next day of natural causes after suffering two strokes.
“It’s been a roller coaster, man. It’s been up and down,” Fanone told CNN. “Probably for about the first two weeks after the 6th, I was still riding pretty high on adrenaline. Shortly thereafter, I started to experience some of the more psychological injuries, PTSD, some of the emotional trauma from what I experienced that day.”
Fanone said he wants Americans to realize the sacrifice police made to protect the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“Thousands of rioters came to the Capitol hellbent on destruction and violence and murder and 850 [D.C. police] officers responded there and really saved the day,” he said. “I want people to understand the stories behind those 850 officers. They are moms and dads, sons and daughters. They have children and families.”
Fanone also called on D.C. police to release his full body camera footage from Jan. 6 as a rebuttal to anyone claiming that the mob didn’t viscously attack officers.
“I don’t know how you can watch my body-worn camera footage and deny that Jan. 6 was anything other than violent and brutal,” he said.