Goodman became the face of heroism on a very dark day.
“Eugene Goodman deserves the highest honor that Congress can bestow,” Schumer said Feb. 12, moments before the Senate unanimously voted to award Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal.
Four months later, after weeks of private deliberations, Senate leaders have relented to their counterparts in the House, who have forcefully argued to broaden the honor beyond just one officer.
The House passed the Gold Medal legislation Tuesday, 406 to 21, with all opposing votes coming from conservative Republicans. The bill cites other federal officers who helped repel the Trump-inspired mob and restore order in the world’s most important democratic capital.
It’s a tale of House-Senate tensions, regardless of party, and, more importantly, an exploration of how and when to recognize individual bravery for law enforcement units that are structured to create broader camaraderie.
Not to mention, over the time and distance from Jan. 6, that lawmakers realized just how many officers had tales of extraordinary bravery in a violent attack that left more than 140 police injured, one dead and many officers questioning whether it was worth staying on the job anymore.
In that passage of time, lawmakers decided it was more important to reward the collective heroism of all law enforcement rather than the individual actions of one brave officer.
“January 6th was one of the darkest days in the history of our democracy, but because of the courage of the Capitol Police and other law enforcement officers, it will also be etched in history as a day of heroism,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement to The Washington Post, explaining the compromise decision to honor the “patriots” with the medal. “Doing so is a high honor, and it is also our responsibility: to ensure that we always remember these heroes and their valor and sacrifice.”
“There were a lot of heroic people, including Officer Goodman,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said Monday evening.
Klobuchar, chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee, introduced a Senate bill on Tuesday that will award the Gold Medal to all officers on the scene that day.
The push to award Goodman made sense in the days after hundreds of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol and fought police, while terrorizing Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides alike.
Some early social media postings that day spread the idea, without evidence, that some Capitol Police officers were aiding rioters. Coronavirus pandemic protocols had limited TV cameras to almost no footprint inside the Capitol as the House and Senate debated certifying Joe Biden’s clear and convincing win over Trump, so there were limited images of what happened.
Finally, the video of Goodman presented the exact opposite image.
Captured by Igor Bobic of the HuffPost, Goodman demonstrated the best of American law enforcement that day. A Black cop, he confronted several dozen predominantly White rioters who had just broken through windows on the first floor of the Senate side of the Capitol, some wearing T-shirts supporting the Holocaust and one carrying a Confederate flag.
As the mob backed him up a stairwell, Goodman tapped one rioter as a technique to guide them away from the Senate chamber. The mob followed him around a corner, where more Capitol Police were on hand to secure that situation.
Bobic posted his phone-shot video on Twitter, but it took a few days for a fuller appreciation: At the moment Goodman turned the mob away from that door, more than 75 senators were still inside as security officials furiously darted about the chamber trying to lock all the doors so they could plot a fuller evacuation 15 minutes later.
And, less than 100 feet from Goodman, then-Vice President Mike Pence hid with his family and Secret Service agents in a small corner Capitol office, with a view outside to the crowd chanting “hang Mike Pence” for not supporting Trump’s unconstitutional plan to overthrow Biden’s victory.
With Bobic’s video properly framing the overall police bravery, senators and the media thrust Goodman into the spotlight. Two weeks later, on Biden’s Inauguration Day, he was given the honor of escorting Kamala D. Harris to her seat on the Capitol’s West Front, and the Washington Nationals have asked him to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a game this season.
“If not for the quick thinking and bravery of Officer Eugene Goodman, in particular, people in this chamber may not have escaped that day unharmed,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Feb. 12, endorsing the Gold Medal honor.
Across the Capitol some jaws dropped among House leadership aides as the Senate unanimously voted to give the Gold Medal exclusively to Goodman.
Two days earlier Pelosi had introduced legislation that would honor all police forces on hand Jan. 6.
By that point, House impeachment managers had introduced a trove of evidence, some of it from Capitol security cameras, that captured intense, almost medieval clashes, where police were left in hand-to-hand, bloodied combat, as Trump-supporting rioters overran the undermanned officers.
D.C. police officer Michael Fanone was dragged down the Capitol steps, suffering a mild heart attack and a concussion as he was shocked with a stun gun and beaten.
Inside the House, several Capitol Police officers, including members of a leadership security detail, raced to push desks in front of the back door where rioters were breaking glass and trying to enter the chamber as hundreds of lawmakers and staff remained on hand.
With guns drawn, they warned the insurrectionists to go away.
On Monday, Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) presented Officer Angel Quinones-Rosa with gifts from the officer’s beloved Philadelphia Eagles for his bravery in being part of the team that blocked that House door.
“He is a brave individual (and U.S. Marine) who never hesitated in his sworn duty on January 6th,” Boyle tweeted Monday evening.
In mid-March the House passed Pelosi’s legislation to present a Gold Medal to the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department, and for the last three months the two sides remained in a standoff, with House leaders vehement in their wish to honor all the bravery of that day.
Last week both sides agreed to slightly modify the House legislation. Four Gold Medals will be printed: one to be mounted inside Capitol Police headquarters, one for the MPD, another for the Smithsonian Institution and another to be displayed prominently inside the Capitol building along with a plaque that names all law enforcement agencies who helped repel the rioters that day.
The legislation singles out Goodman, along with Brian D. Sicknick, the officer who died a day after the attack, and William “Billy” Evans, who was killed in April when a lone driver attacked a security entrance.
Nonprofit groups will be allowed to raise money to buy replica medals that could be presented to individual officers, as has been done with previous Gold Medals honoring large groups.
When Schumer closed out his remarks honoring Goodman, he pointed out all the other law enforcement agencies that came to the Capitol’s defense.
“Let us give them all the honor and recognition they so justly deserve,” he said.
Now, Congress has decided to do just that.