For the first time since the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman has spoken out publicly about his experiences during the attack, where his actions were credited with saving countless lives.
Goodman was hailed as a hero after video footage from HuffPost political reporter Igor Bobic showed Goodman standing alone at one point, facing down a mob of pro-Trump rioters, who had stormed the Capitol seeking to stop the confirmation of Joe Biden’s electoral college win.
In the video, Goodman can be seen luring the mob away from the Senate chambers, where lawmakers were sheltering. Other footage from that day also showed Goodman redirecting Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, to safety as rioters were spilling into the Capitol. The insurrection resulted in five deaths and injured about 140 members of law enforcement.
For more than a year, Goodman kept a low profile, declining interviews with several media outlets. But he appeared in an interview posted Monday on the “3 Brothers No Sense” podcast, where he spoke candidly with the show’s three hosts about the attack and wrestling with the ups and downs of subsequent fame, which included being featured on the cover of Time magazine.
“I keep asking myself that question every day, like who the hell am I?” Goodman told the hosts at the beginning of the interview, when they joke that it felt surreal to have landed the first exclusive interview with him after he turned down so many others. But Goodman said he felt safe with them, noting one of the hosts is Byron “Buff” Evans, a personal friend and co-worker who was also at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Goodman said most people don’t realize he was actually outside for a bit during the siege. When he ran into the mob at the Senate, Goodman said, he was surprised to see that the crowd had penetrated the inside of the complex.
“I honestly didn’t know they were that far up into the building,” Goodman said. “[I thought,] ‘Aw hell, they’re actually in the building.’ They lock eyes on me right away and just like that, I was in it. It wasn’t a matter of let me leave them alone or not. I feel like they would have followed me anyway.”
Goodman, who is a veteran, said his military training and real-life experience in the Army — when “nothing ever went to plan, ever” — helped him think on the fly, even if he didn’t realize it at the time.
“I was just in go mode, you know what I mean?” he said, adding that he was focused on safety and de-escalation, “to a point,” as he faced angry people screaming in his face, some of whom he suspected could have been armed.
“Any situation like that you want to de-escalate but at the same time you want to survive first,” Goodman said. “You never know. It could have easily been a bloodbath, so kudos to everybody there that showed a measure of restraint with regards to deadly force, ’cause it could have been bad. Really, really bad.”
Evans also revealed on the show that the chatter online about police officers, including Goodman, was largely negative in the immediate aftermath of the attack. It wasn’t until Bobic’s footage of Goodman’s actions that day went viral that the narrative shifted to one of his being a hero, they said.
Goodman was chosen to escort Vice President Kamala Harris at the inauguration, in his new role at deputy Senate sergeant-at-arms. In a time of bitter bipartisanship, the Senate voted unanimously last February to award Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest civilian honors in the country.
Goodman credited his family, particularly his daughter, with supporting him and giving him a safe zone during the aftermath of the insurrection. Even before the attack, he said he took pride in “not bringing work home,” which was difficult on Jan. 6 because he still had pepper spray on his uniform.
“My daughter, she’s hilarious. All she said was, ‘I saw you on TV,’ and then she went right back to, ‘OK, so I need these V bucks for Fortnite,’ which for me was good. It was good,” he said. ” ‘Cause it got my mind off there … What it was was, OK, you’re home now. You can relax and go into daddy mode.”
Goodman said he has shied away from giving interviews, however, because he understands it means he would have to embrace the negativity that comes with increased renown. He recounted having lunch recently with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and two other police officers who defended the Capitol that day, Harry Dunn and Michael Fanone, where Fanone told the group about having a drink thrown in his face when he was out with his daughter.
Goodman said if a politically driven person were to do something similar to him while he was out with his daughter, then he would feel inclined to fight.
“And what’s the narrative then?” he said. “I’ve had my ups and downs with the popularity … That’s mostly why I haven’t been doing any interviews or anything like that.”
The unintentional celebrity has brought some surreal moments, said Goodman, who has maintained a self-effacing attitude about his fame. He once saw a man selling sweatshirts with his face on them — and when he went to buy one, the vendor still asked him to pay.
“I’m just like wow, OK, this dude gonna charge me for my own face, that’s funny,” Goodman said. “I respected the hustle and I bought one. Everybody got to eat.”
He also said it was jarring to see people tweet things like “Eugene Goodman Day” on the anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack, and told the “3 Brothers No Sense” hosts that he would not want a statue of himself.
“That’s just one more thing for a bird to poop on,” he joked.