The physical toll on officers who defended the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack by a pro-Trump mob is becoming clearer, with reports by police officials and federal prosecutors indicating that about 140 officers were injured, the head of Capitol Police officers’ union said Wednesday.
“I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack who have sustained head injuries,” Gus Papathanasiou, union chairman, said in a statement Wednesday. “One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake, to name some of the injuries.”
Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick died after trying to defend the Capitol from rioters. One Capitol Police officer and one D.C. police officer have died by suicide since the attack.
And since Jan. 6, 38 Capitol Police employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, almost entirely officers and supervisors who responded to the riot, Papathanasiou said.
At least 81 Capitol Police officers were assaulted during the siege of the Capitol, according to filings by federal prosecutors. The filings did not detail injuries sustained by officers and a Capitol Police spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on officer injuries.
About 65 officers from the D.C. police also suffered injuries on Jan. 6, including several concussions from head blows from various objects, including metal poles ripped from inauguration-related scaffolding and even a pole with an American flag attached, D.C. police officials have said. Other injuries included swollen ankles and wrists, bruised arms and legs, and irritated lungs from bear and pepper spray.
Reports say officers were pushed downstairs, trampled by rioters, punched and run over in a stampede. One D.C. police officer who was at the riot took his own life in the aftermath of Jan. 6. “I’ve talked to officers who have done two tours in Iraq, who said this was scarier to them than their time in combat,” acting D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III said at a news conference earlier this month.
Papathanasiou said the admission from acting Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pittman that the department had advance warning of the “strong potential for violence” Jan. 6, including the possible use of firearms, was “unconscionable. The fact they did not relay this information to the officers on duty prior to the insurrection is inexcusable.”
The union head also contested Pittman’s claim that she ordered a lockdown of the Capitol. “To be clear, it was actually Inspector [Thomas] Lloyd who initially ordered the Capitol lockdown approximately one hour prior to Chief Pittman’s order,” said Papathanasiou. “That was the only time that day I heard Pittman on the radio.”
“The officers are angry, and I don’t blame them. The entire executive team failed us, and they must be held accountable,” he said. “Their inaction cost one officer his life, and we have almost 140 responding officers injured. They have a lot to atone for.”
A spokeswoman for the Capitol Police also did not respond to requests for information on officer coronavirus diagnoses.