WASHINGTON – The Black Capitol police officer who faced off against a mob of predominantly White rioters Jan. 6 may soon receive more than just praise for his actions. On Thursday, a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers announced that they would introduce a bill to award officer Eugene Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest awards a civilian can receive in the United States.
“He’s a hero!” said Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., one of the three members of Congress spearheading the bill. “The United States Capitol was under attack by armed, violent extremists, and Officer Eugene Goodman was the only thing standing between the mob and the United States Senate.”
The bill is also being backed by Reps Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo., and Nancy Mace, R-S.C., who expressed their gratitude to Goodman in a statement. “Thanks to his valor, we are here today,” Mace said. “From the bottom of my heart, I cannot thank him enough for his bravery and for his dedication to the call of duty.”
In a now-viral video captured during the attack by HuffPost reporter Igor Bobic, Goodman is seen in the halls of the Capitol building trying to hold back a group of several dozen rioters. For over a minute, he faces the intruders alone as they follow him up two flights of stairs and come dangerously close to the doors of the Senate chambers, where lawmakers were sheltering.
Policing experts said Goodman, 40, used himself as “bait” to lure the rioters away from the Senate chambers. His quick thinking “helped to avoid a tremendous tragedy,” said Kirk D. Burkhalter, a professor at New York Law School and a former New York City police officer.
The D.C. native is an Army veteran who served from 2002 to 2006 and deployed with the 101st Airborne Division to Iraq for a year.
The Congressional Gold Medal is considered to carry the same level of prestige as the Presidential Medal of Freedom, though fewer have been awarded. The award is meant to show “national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions” and has been given to 177 recipients to date, according to the website of the House of Representatives.
The bill proposing the award has to be accepted by two-thirds of both chambers of Congress before being considered by committees that will grant final approval.
Recent recipients include Raoul Gustaf Wallenberg, a Swedish architect who saved thousands of Jews in Hungary during the Holocaust, the Chinese-American Veterans of World War II, and Greg LeMond, the American cyclist who won three Tour de France races in the 1980s and 1990s.