A U.S. Capitol police officer who was caught in the middle of the Jan. 6 riot recounted what he experienced as Trump-supporting insurrectionists burst into the building in the deadly chaos that shocked the nation.
Harry Dunn, a 13-year veteran of the Capitol Police force, spoke with ABC News on his behalf and not the agency’s, making him the first among the officers to speak publicly about what took place.
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He said that when the rioters rushed in, he was gasping pepper spray and bear mace as he tried to fight off the mob, which came from a Donald Trump rally, angered over the results of the 2020 election and determined to stop Congress from certifying the electoral college votes. Five people, including Dunn’s fellow capitol police officer, died as a result of the violence.
“This time you look up, it's just a cloud of smoke; fire extinguishers have been going off,” Dunn remembered. “The floors are covered in white dust, water bottles, broken flagpoles, mask, empty canisters of pepper spray, helmets, Trump flags, everything in the rotunda, just laying there on the floor.”
At least one confederate battle flag was waved while rioters ran through the Capitol, forcing legislators to find safe hideout spaces. That meant the presence of white supremacists, and Dunn, who is Black, was verbally abused with racial epithets while he tried to secure the area.
"’I got called a [N-word] a couple dozen times today protecting this building,’” Dunn said he told a colleague. “Is this America? They beat police officers with Blue Lives Matter flags. They fought us; they had Confederate flags in the U.S. Capitol.”
Dunn’s experience was originally captured when he spoke anonymously in a Buzzfeed article published Jan. 9. “It took me back to a dark place because I didn't say it for a catchphrase -- I wasn't trying to create a slogan,” said Dunn, referring to his remarks being repeated during the Senate impeachment trial of Trump. “I struggle… should I be proud? No, not at all.
“Those were my feelings, and that was my truth -- it wasn't a proud moment. It took me back to a dark place," Dunn said.
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Another Capitol Police officer, Eugene Goodman, who was seen on video leading rioters away from the Senate chamber on Jan. 6, possibly saving lives, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his actions on Feb. 12. However, he has not spoken publicly about the incident.
“There were dozens of Eugene Goodmans that day,” Dunn said. “Eugene got caught on camera, and I'm not surprised that he did the right thing, the brave thing, the heroic thing -- there were so many Eugene Goodmans that weren't caught on camera that day. … and I'm proud to work with all of them.”
Although Dunn was terrified with what was going on, he said the defense of the Capitol was successful because the attempt at overtaking the Capitol failed. So far 235, people have been arrested, and more than 400 people are under investigation, according to CBS News.
“They were terrorists,” Dunn said. “They tried to disrupt this country's democracy -- that was their goal... And you know what? Y'all failed because later that night, they went on and they certified the election.”