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FBI investigating menacing calls to ex-D.C. police officer Michael Fanone

Fanone, who was seriously injured defending the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, has been an outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump.

Former D.C. police officer Michael Fanone, left, and Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn talk before a Jan. 6 House select committee hearing in June 2022. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Federal authorities are investigating menacing phone calls and other messages directed at Michael Fanone, a former D.C. police officer who was seriously hurt defending the Capitol from rioters on Jan. 6, 2021, and has since become an outspoken critic of former president Donald Trump, according to Fanone and another person familiar with the matter.

Fanone said a prosecutor with the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C. told him Thursday that the FBI had launched an inquiry into the communications he received, after he forwarded a recording of call in which someone told him: “The world would be a better place if you were hit by a fast moving bus tomorrow.”

That call came hours after Fanone, who was beaten and shocked with a stun device until he lost consciousness and suffered a heart attack during the Jan. 6 riot, testified at a sentencing hearing for one his attackers Tuesday in federal court. A judge sentenced Fanone’s assailant to seven years and two months in prison after Fanone told the man, “I hope you suffer.”

Fanone said he forwarded a recording of the menacing call, which came from a number in Delray Beach, Fla., to a federal prosecutor, who texted him: “Ok, got it. I’ll send to FBI. They should be calling you soon.” But after he heard nothing back, he said, he gave The Washington Post a recording of the call and the prosecutor’s text. He said a different prosecutor then called him Thursday to confirm the FBI was investigating the call and other messages he received. A person familiar with the matter, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the open case, confirmed the investigation.

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Lira Gallagher, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said the agency “can neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.” But, she said: “We do take all threats of violence seriously and work with our law enforcement partners to investigate people who make them, including those who seek to harass, intimidate, or retaliate against federal witnesses.”

Fanone, now an on-air contributor to CNN, said he understands the difficulties of investigating such messages, because to substantiate criminal wrongdoing, threats typically need to be specific and overt. Many of the missives that Fanone said he has received wish him harm, or wish him dead — but don’t appear to make specific threats to kill him.

But Fanone said he did not feel authorities took his concerns seriously enough, and that his outspokenness had made him a high-profile target. When he goes out in public, detractors sometimes follow him on city streets.

Fanone said that he was not allowed to use a private entrance to the federal courthouse on Judiciary Square at the recent sentencing hearing. As a witness and victim in ongoing criminal cases, he said, he deserves protection from those who might do him harm.

“I’m a private citizen,” Fanone said. “I have no means of protecting myself.”

Bill Miller, a spokesman with the U.S. attorney’s office, declined to comment. Representatives from the U.S. Marshals Service, which provides security at the federal courthouse, did not respond to a request for comment.

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Fanone was among hundreds of D.C. police officers who rushed to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 to answer a citywide emergency alert, as rioters stormed the building.

The officer’s early interviews with The Post and other media — along with testimony in court and to the House select committee investigating the origins of the attack — have offered one of the most vivid accounts of that day. Fanone’s blunt speaking style and unflinching criticism of Trump, the former president’s supporters who sought to overturn the election and lawmakers who deny or downplay that a violent insurrection occurred, has made him a hero to some, and a target of others.

He resigned from the D.C. police force in December, shortly after he had returned to full duty after recovering from the attack. At the time, Fanone said he had become ostracized by many friends and fellow officers who did not like his appearances on national television or his views on the insurrection.

During the sentencing hearing earlier this week, U.S. Marshals removed a spectator who shouted at Fanone. And he received a vulgar, menacing voice mail as he testified before House lawmakers in July 2021.

Fanone said the only time he was afforded protection was during a hearing in June at the Capitol when he invited actor Sean Penn to accompany him. He said Penn’s visit was not announced ahead of time, and that four U.S. Capitol police officers were quickly dispatched to escort him and the actor.

“Any other time, it’s ‘You’re on your own, Fanone,'” he said. “And people ask me why I’ve lost faith in law enforcement. That’s why.”

Fanone said he asked Capitol police officers for an escort after one incident in which he was followed and heckled by demonstrators after a committee hearing in July. He said he made a separate request that same month through the House Sergeant-at-Arms to allow him secure parking on the Capitol grounds and the use of a nonpublic entrance. He said he was allowed to park on the grounds, but was denied other accommodations.

Representatives for the Sergeant-at-Arms did not respond to an email seeking comment.

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Timothy Barber, a spokesman for the U.S. Capitol Police, said Fanone has not contacted department officials “to voice safety concerns.” In a statement, Barber said: “We are proud of all the officers who heroically defended the Capitol and would gladly listen to his concerns.”

Barber also said Capitol Police were not aware Penn had planned to attend the hearing with Fanone, “so when the arrival created a frenzy, officers ensured all of the guests and journalists could safely move around.”

Fanone denied Penn’s visit caused a frenzy in the hearing room.