A captain of the U.S. Capitol Police Force responding to the January 6 riots on Capitol Hill offered a heartbreaking first-hand account of her experience fighting white supremacists and other pro-Trump elements.
The rioters nearly broke his arm amid the chaos, Captain Carneysha Mendoza told senators at the first official hearing on the January 6 security breach. She and her fellow officers were gassed. Many were hit with blunt objects and knocked to the ground.
“I received chemical burns to my face that have not yet healed to this day,” Ms. Mendoza said.
The USCP captain, a veteran of the United States Army, repeatedly referred to the January 6 riot as a “battle.”
“We could have had 10 times as many people working with us, and I still think the battle would have been just as devastating,” he said, a testament to how overwhelmed the officers were, as it took hours for the National Guard and police forces to arrive.
The Senate was scheduled to hear testimony Tuesday from four Capitol Hill security officials who oversaw the response to the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill, as lawmakers seek answers about what went wrong before and during the attack.
The four panelists who testified before the Senate Rules and Homeland Security Committees were Acting Chief of the Metropolitan Police Robert Contee, former Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving, former Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger, and former Chief of Police for the United States Capitol Steven Sund.
Tuesday’s hearing is the first in a series of oversight efforts expected in Washington to identify information gathering flaws that led to the security breach on Capitol Hill on Jan.6.
“This is certainly not the last hearing we will have on this attack. Next week we will hear from witnesses from federal agencies such as the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, ”said Amy Klobuchar, chair of Senate Rules.
But before the four panelists delivered their opening remarks, Ms. Klobuchar invited Ms. Mendoza to tell her story, which demonstrated how violent the mob attack was.
Around 1:30 p.m. on January 6, the captain was home having lunch with her 10-year-old son when she received a call from a colleague asking her to arrive early. She was scheduled to work a 16-hour shift starting at 3 p.m.
“I literally dropped everything to answer work early that day,” he said.
In his 15-minute walk to work, the dispatching officer informed him that there were six active scenes, including multiple confrontations outside the Capitol and explosive devices that had been found outside of nearby Democratic and Republican National Committee buildings.
Ms. Mendoza decided that she would help at the DNC bomb scene as it was the closest to her current location, but when she heard officers on the radio calling for “immediate” assistance on Capitol Hill, she quickly passed the DNC. towards the legislature.
By the time he rushed past the crowd on the East Plaza and entered the building with the help of another officer, dozens of rioters had already made their way through the Rotunda on the first floor below which stands the iconic Capitol dome.
He lined up with other officers to prevent other rioters from “penetrating deeper into the building” through the hallways.
“At some point, my right arm got caught between the rioters and the railing along the wall,” he testified Tuesday.
A sergeant released his arm from the crushing weight.
“If it hadn’t, I’m sure it would have broken,” Mendoza said.
The rioters eventually dominated Ms. Mendoza’s line, dispatching officers to other parts of the building to prevent further intrusions.
He made his way to the Rotunda, where he noticed a “dense smoke-like residue” and smelled what he thought was military-grade tear gas, “a familiar smell,” he said.
The tear gas mixed with the mist from the foamy white fire extinguisher that the rioters had deployed, creating a noxious mist that exposed several dozen people in the Rotunda to sensations of suffocation and burning. It was then that Mrs. Mendoza felt the chemical burns that burned her face.
The Rotunda was an all-out battle between rioters and police.
“I witnessed the officers being knocked to the ground and hit with various objects thrown by the rioters,” he said, although he never determined what those objects were.
As captain, Ms. Mendoza “assumed command” of the officers at the scene and called for reinforcements.
After “a couple of hours”, the officers managed to clear the Rotunda of the mob.
But with the rabid rioters still pounding on the door from outside and pushing in, the officers had to brace themselves against it for several more minutes.
“The officers begged me for relief, as they weren’t sure how long they could physically keep the door closed with the crowd continually banging on the outside of the door, trying to gain re-entry. Finally, the agents were able to secure the door with furniture and other objects, ”said Ms. Mendoza.
While both lawmakers and the media have widely reported that the attack lasted approximately three hours, Ms. Mendoza had noticed at the time that her Fitbit showed that she had been in the “exercise zone” for four hours and nine minutes. .
“As an American and as an Army veteran, it is sad to see ourselves attacked by our fellow citizens. It saddens me to see the unnecessary loss of life. It saddens me to see the impact this has had on the Capitol police officers. And it saddens me to see the impact this has had on our agency and our country, ”said Ms. Mendoza.
More than 250 people have been charged so far for their role in the Capitol riots. Donald Trump was accused of inciting the bloody insurrection in which five people died. The Senate voted him guilty, 57-43, with seven Republicans voting with the 50 Democrats and Independent Democrats. That result fell 10 votes below the two-thirds threshold for conviction, which would have disqualified Trump from future office.