WASHINGTON — A U.S. Capitol Police officer filed a lawsuit against former President Donald Trump on the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack, accusing Trump of causing emotional and physical pain, including a concussion, during last year’s riot — the latest in a litany of litigation from law enforcement against him.
Briana Kirkland is demanding “accountability for Trump’s central role in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection,” according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Washington. The officer was forced to take a year off work after suffering a traumatic brain injury while fending off the pro-Trump mob that breached the Capitol, the complaint says. At one point, she was outnumbered 450-to-1 at one of the Capitol doors and only armed with a baton, the lawsuit alleges.
She argues that Trump did little to end the insurrection and that his “provocative words and actions leading up to and on Jan. 6, 2021, were likely to incite and provoke violence in others and did in fact incite and provoke violence directed” at her.
“As the leader of this violent mob, who took their cues from his campaign rhetoric and personal tweets and traveled from around the country to the nation’s capital at Trump’s invitation for the January 6 rally, Trump was in a position of extraordinary influence over his followers, who committed assault and battery on Briana Kirkland,” the 51-page complaint says. “Trump, by his words and conduct, directed the mob that stormed the Capitol and assaulted and battered Briana Kirkland.”
Kirkland, 29, a five-year veteran of the force who only returned to work this week, accuses Trump of multiple counts, including directing assault and battery, as well as aiding and abetting assault and battery. She is seeking at least $75,000 in damages.
Patrick Malone, Kirkland’s attorney, told The Washington Post that Kirkland’s was one of several new Jan. 6 lawsuits filed this week on behalf of Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police officers. Capitol Police officer Marcus J. Moore and Metropolitan Police officers Bobby Tabron and DeDivine K. Carter are also calling for accountability for Trump’s actions. The lawsuits assert that Trump violated the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which prohibits mob violence aimed at obstructing the operations of the federal government and its officers, Malone said.
“Our clients suffered physical and psychological wounds as the result of insurrectionists incited by the former president to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power,” Malone said in a statement.
Taylor Budowich, a spokesman for Trump, did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Friday.
Kirkland’s lawsuit comes as President Joe Biden forcefully denounced Trump for his role in the Capitol riot, as well as spreading falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election. In a speech from the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, Biden unleashed a torrent of attacks against his immediate predecessor. Though he did not call out Trump by name, Biden made 16 references to the “former president,” whom he squarely blamed for undermining America’s democracy.
“The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election,” Biden said. “He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interest as more important than his country’s interest and America’s interest, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.”
Other similar legal actions have been brought against Trump by other Capitol Police officers, who have argued that the former president and his confidants should be held responsible for the violent attack on officers working on Jan. 6 and the physical and emotional trauma they suffer. In August, seven Capitol Police officers sued Trump and more than a dozen alleged Jan. 6 participants, saying the defendants are responsible for the officers being “violently assaulted, spat on, tear-gassed, bear-sprayed, subjected to racial slurs and epithets, and put in fear for their lives.” This week, Moore sued Trump and accused him of inflicting “physical and emotional injuries” by inciting the riot.
Kirkland was assigned to the Senate side of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, according to the complaint. Her unit was told that morning to “gear up” in their hard gear and helmets when they heard that members of the extremist group the Proud Boys were headed toward to Capitol from the White House, the lawsuit says. She and about 20 other Capitol Police officers formed a line against what was an “increasingly hostile crowd” in the early afternoon.
That’s when rioters began to push and shove Kirkland, outnumbering her 450-to-one, the lawsuits says. They sprayed substances and threw items at her and her colleagues.
“She had no shield and no idea whether or how she would be able to get any additional protective gear,” the complaint states. “All she could do was try to stand her ground as she gripped her baton in her hand with all her strength.”
As rioters and police battled for control of bike rack barriers that were being used as weapons by the mob, she recalled an interaction with one Trump supporter who had “a murderous look in his eyes.” When Kirkland thought the rioter was going to pull her to the ground, she feared she might die, the lawsuit alleges.
“This is going to be it,” she said to herself, according to the complaint.
Later in the day, Kirkland assisted emergency personnel in their efforts to get to Ashli Babbitt, the rioter who was fatally shot inside the Capitol by police.
Hours later, Kirkland had a headache, “but didn’t recall being struck in the head,” according to the lawsuit. The next morning, her vision went “completely black.” She would later see fireworks whenever she opened up her eyes, the complaint says.
She was diagnosed with a concussion that day. Since then, her condition has worsened and persisted, and she has needed extensive medical care such as “physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, visual therapy, and medical management of her complex symptoms,” according to the lawsuit. The headache has stayed with her for more than a year, she says.
“Officer Kirkland endured an odyssey in which she started as one of the 20 or so USCP officers sent to the West Front of the United States Capitol, and ended covered in chemical spray, blood, with a traumatic brain injury that would cost her a year of her personal and professional life, and physical and personal injuries that will be with her indefinitely,” the lawsuit says.
A year after the riot, Kirkland says she lives with the memory of being attacked by a mob that she believes was incited by Trump.
“The impact on Officer Kirkland’s physical and emotional health, and on her personal and professional life, have been enormous,” the lawsuit says.
Kirkland is seeking a trial by jury.