The attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 has had an undeniable impact on the people who were there that day. Join Washington Post Live when former Chief of Homeland Security and Intelligence for the District of Columbia Donell Harvin, and others who were on the frontlines that day, discuss how the events at the U.S. Capitol played out in front of them and the impact it has had on their lives.


“When I made that decision not to use my weapon– I thought about using it, believe me, I did– but would that make it worse for myself and the other officers being surrounded by thousands and thousands of unruly violent people?... What we I think collectively… made that decision that if we were to use our lethal weapon, than it would have been a bloodbath.” (Washington Post Live)
“When I returned to the Capitol… I hesitated… For a moment I thought it was going to be gut-wrenching… You have moments of relief that you see your colleagues… But it doesn’t take away the trauma of everything that happened.” (Washington Post Live)
“We certainly have an interesting juxtaposition in which the local authorities, D.C. government, were far more prepared than federal authorities for what we knew and anticipated what would be coming which was mass violence. Generally that doesn’t happen.” (Washington Post Live)
“January 6 was a symptom, it wasn’t an endpoint. And so many of these individuals have gone back to their state and their community, and they’re organizing at the local level. And now the burden shifts… from the federal government… to the state and locals.” (Washington Post Live)

U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell

Aquilino A. Gonell is a 15-year veteran of the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP), where he is an officer holding the rank of Sergeant. He is assigned to a First Responder Unit in the USCP’s Uniformed Services Bureau. When major public assemblies or demonstrations occur outside the Capitol, he is detailed to the USCP Civil Disturbance Unit (CDU), which provides additional security for such events and, if necessary, riot control.

Since joining the USCP in 2006, Sergeant Gonell has devoted himself to protecting the Capitol Complex and fulfilling the security mission of the USCP. He has worked diligently to provide security for Members of Congress, congressional staff, House employees, and members of the public who visit the Capitol. He has also provided security for major events at the Capitol such as State of the Union addresses and presidential inaugurations. In recognition of his service and accomplishments as a Capitol Police officer, Sergeant Gonell has received two Capitol Police Career Service Awards, two Honorable Mention commendations, and a certificate for participating in the successful implementation of operational security for the 2013 Presidential inauguration.

Prior to joining the USCP, Sergeant Gonell served for eight years in the U.S. Army. He joined the U.S. Army Reserve in 1999. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, his reserve unit began training for mobilization and overseas deployment. In 2003, he deployed for 545 days to Iraq with a quartermasters unit in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During Sergeant Gonell’s deployment, his unit frequently came under enemy fire. At one base where he was posted north of Baghdad, the base was under constant mortar, rocket, and indirect fire by Iraqi insurgents. One day, several enemy mortar rounds landed in front of the base PX where Sergeant Gonell was shopping, killing and injuring several American soldiers. Fulfilling Sergeant Gonell’s operational supply duties for other U.S. Army units also required him to frequently undertake dangerous travel on roads in Iraq that were infested with improvised explosive devices. Sergeant Gonell has received multiple awards and commendations for his U.S. military service, including two Army Achievement Medals, an Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Sergeant Gonell was born in the Dominican Republic and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1992. In 2001, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He graduated from George Wingate High School in Brooklyn, New York, and received his B.A. degree from Long Island University in 2005.

Donell Harvin, DrPH

Donell Harvin is a Senior Homeland Security Policy Researcher with the RAND Corporation’s Defense and Political Sciences Department. He works on homeland security and national security issues including domestic intelligence, counterterrorism, public health and all-hazards preparedness, resiliency, and emergency response.

He is graduate faculty at Georgetown University where he teaches in the Applied Intelligence and the Emergency and Disaster Management degree programs. Additionally, he has served as a subject-matter expert for several organizations including the United Nation Counter Terrorism Office, INTERPOL Bioterrorism Unit and the Center for Homeland Security’s Executive Education Program (EEP) conducting executive level seminars in emergency management, terrorism and threat mitigation.

Donell is the former Chief of Homeland Security and Intelligence for the Government of the District of Columbia (DC), where he oversaw the Fusion Intelligence Center for the nation’s capital with a mission to collect, analyze and share cyber threat information and intelligence amongst state, local and federal partners. He is also the first US-based member of the Counter Terrorism Preparedness Network (CTPN) a global consortium of major cities.

Prior to DC HSEMA, he served as an agency executive in the medical examiner’s office for DC and in New York City (NYC), directing large-scale forensic operations, including leading several 9/11 sifting operations, emergency management-related planning and response and led the agency’s occupational health and safety program.

Previous to those positions he was the Chief Research Scientist for the NYC Department of Health in its Bureau of Environmental Emergency Preparedness and Response. There he served as the lead scientist for the Radiation Response Unit and Environmental Response Group and served as the project lead research scientist on several key initiatives including NYC's BioWatch program, the NYC Radiological Response Plan, NYC Radiological Mitigation Plan and planning for WMD events. He has a broad Hazardous Materials (HazMat) response, weapons of mass destruction, occupational health and safety and health physics background.

His public safety background spans 30 years which includes water rescue, Fire/EMS, public health, hazardous materials and WMD response, emergency management, crime scene management and complex forensic operations. He has responded to incidents ranging from the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11 as a member of FDNY to the Sandy Hook Shootings as the forensics lead for NYC, and has served as the lead emergency manager for several NYC agencies during large-scale incidents.

Dr. Harvin holds an undergraduate degree in Fire and Emergency Services Management, graduate degrees in Emergency Management (MPA), Terrorism Studies (MA), and Environmental Science (MPH) and is a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) specializing in environmental epidemiology, public health disasters and biological threats. For his dissertation, he worked as a research fellow at Cornell University School of Medicine and performed shotgun DNA sequencing of pathogens found in emergency response vehicles. His goal was to better understand the baseline microbiome of the environment that first responders work in, and gain insight into potential exposure pathways for pathogens that may be introduced into emergency response vehicles.