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D.C. Metro Police Describe Being First Responders To Insurrection At The Capitol

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

When President Trump's supporters marched on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, hundreds of them quickly steamrolled their way past U.S. Capitol Police, whose job it is to protect Congress. The first call for backup went to the Metropolitan Police Department, which patrols the streets and neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. Martin Austermuhle from member station WAMU spoke to three of those officers on what it was like when they arrived at the Capitol.

MARTIN AUSTERMUHLE, BYLINE: Officer Mike Fanone has chased drug dealers and violent criminals in Washington's neighborhoods for the better part of two decades. But on January 6, he faced a new threat.

MIKE FANONE: It was like some medieval [expletive]. I mean, there's, like, flags flying and a sea of people. And it was the craziest thing I've ever seen.

AUSTERMUHLE: Fanone and hundreds of other D.C. police officers fought large and sometimes violent crowds to regain control of the Capitol. He describes a moment when he was dragged into a crowd of Trump supporters on the west side of the Capitol, tased a half-dozen times and left dazed on the ground.

FANONE: I remember, like, trying to retain my gun. I remember guys chanting, like, kill him with his own gun.

AUSTERMUHLE: Fanone's account provides a new insight into those harrowing moments as police attempted to contain the chaos at the Capitol. They were pelted with heavy objects, sprayed with chemical irritants and crushed by the crowds.

Officer Christina Laury usually spends her time seizing illegal guns in D.C. neighborhoods, but on January 6, she was rushing to the Capitol.

CHRISTINA LAURY: I don't think we even understood the magnitude and the amount of people that were actually there.

AUSTERMUHLE: The violence was almost immediate when she arrived. She described being sprayed in the face with what she says was bear mace.

LAURY: And you just would see officers going down trying to, you know, douse themselves with water, trying to open their eyes up so they could see again. And at the same point, these people are still trying to push and gain access to the Capitol.

AUSTERMUHLE: Officer Daniel Hodges arrived around the same time. He's a six-year veteran of the D.C. Police Department, a beat patrol guy. He and his platoon were ordered to block a western entrance to the Capitol.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting, unintelligible).

DANIEL HODGES: When we were marching up through the crowd, they were all shouting at us, calling us traitors, telling us to remember our oaths - stuff like that. Eventually, they attacked us on our way up - fists, trying to steal our equipment, pushing, hitting, kicking - that kind of thing. Someone on a upper level from where I was threw down something huge and metal and hit me in the head and some other officers.

AUSTERMUHLE: Hodges was wearing a helmet, so he kept moving forward. But videos of that day show other police officers being hit in the head with fire extinguishers. Brian Sicknick, a U.S. Capitol Police officer who died during the rampage, is thought to have been hit by one. Hodges eventually ended up in what police now call the hallway of hell, a narrow passage into the Capitol. That's where he was pinned against the door by a mob of Trump supporters. A video of the incident went viral.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Shouting, unintelligible).

FANONE: I had my arms pinned at that point. I wasn't able to defend myself. The - yeah, I think you see someone in the video who rips my mask off, my gas mask. He's also able to rip away my baton, beat me with it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Shouting, unintelligible).

AUSTERMUHLE: Officer Mike Fanone was on the other side of that door, standing inside the Capitol. He helped pull Hodges to safety and joined a line of police officers working to push a much larger crowd of rioters back. He compares it to Spartans going into battle.

FANONE: And it was like the real-life "300" minus the six-pack abs, which none of us have. But we pushed this group back, you know, 30 guys versus 15,000.

AUSTERMUHLE: Somehow, Fanone ended up outside, alone and surrounded by a sea of angry Trump supporters.

FANONE: Guys were, like, grabbing gear off my vest, and they ripped my badge from me. And people were trying to grab my gun, and they grabbed, you know, my ammunition magazines.

AUSTERMUHLE: Fanone considered fighting back but knew they might try to take his gun, so instead pleaded for his life.

FANONE: I decided, like, maybe I can appeal to somebody's humanity in this crowd. And I said, you know, I have kids. Fortunately, I think that it worked. Some people did, you know, start to protect me. They kind of encircled me and tried to prevent people from assaulting me.

AUSTERMUHLE: Fanone eventually made it back to safety. He later learned that he had suffered a mild heart attack. Officer Christina Laury escaped major injuries, and officer Daniel Hodges walked away with no broken bones. All three say the D.C. police officers faced down mobs of people who had expected the police to join their cause.

HODGES: But we're not on your side. We're here to defend the law, and we're here to defend the people. So if you come back, it's going to be even worse.

AUSTERMUHLE: In D.C., police will have plenty of help. Some 20,000 National Guardsmen are expected in the city before the inauguration.

For NPR News, I'm Martin Austermuhle in Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF MF DOOM'S "ARROW ROOT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.