A request that this article title be changed to Law enforcement response to the January 6 United States Capitol attack is under discussion. Please do not move this article until the discussion is closed.

Law enforcement mounted a response to the 2021 United States Capitol attack, initially failing to maintain security perimeters and protect parts of the building from being breached and occupied, but succeeding at protecting members of Congress, and subsequently, as reinforcements arrived, to secure the breached Capitol.

The United States Capitol Police (USCP) had not planned for a riot or attack.[1] The Capitol Police Board – consisting of the Architect of the Capitol, the House Sergeant at Arms, and the Senate Sergeant at Arms – has the authority to request the National Guard to the Capitol but made the decision on January 3 not to do so.[2] On January 6, USCP officers deployed without "less lethal" arms such as sting grenades. Department riot shields had been improperly stored, causing them to shatter upon impact.[3] At 12:49 p.m., Capitol police responded to two bombs near the Capitol.[4] Minutes later, rioters breached a police perimeter west of the Capitol building. By 2:12 p.m., rioters breached the Capitol building.[5] Capitol and D.C. police then fought to protect Congress and restore order, while individuals at the Department of Defense waited over three hours to deploy the National Guard.[6]

Capitol Police Chief Sund first requested assistance from the D.C. National Guard (DCNG) at 1:49 p.m.[7][8] At 2:22 p.m. D.C. officials also requested National Guard deployment in a conference call with Pentagon leaders.[7] After DoD refused to send immediate assistance, D.C. Mayor Bowser contacted the Public Safety Secretary of Virginia, Brian Moran, who immediately dispatched Virginia State Police to the District.[9] At 2:49 p.m., the Governor of Virginia activated all available assets including the Virginia National Guard to aid the U.S. Capitol; the authorization from DoD required for legal deployment was not granted.[9][10] By 3:10 p.m., police from Fairfax County, Virginia, were dispatched to the District,[11] and began arriving at 3:15 p.m.[9]

Shortly after 4 p.m., the White House released a video of Donald Trump calling for supporters to "go home".[12] The acting Secretary of Defense approved deployment of the National Guard at 4:32 p.m.[13] Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley later told the House committee investigating January 6 that Pence, not Trump, had requested the deployment of the National Guard.[14]

By 4:24 p.m., a 12-man armed FBI tactical team had arrived at the Capitol Complex.[15] At 5:02, about 150 soldiers of the DCNG departed the D.C. Armory; the contingent reached the Capitol complex and began support operations at 5:40. By 6:14 p.m., U.S. Capitol Police, D.C. Metropolitan Police, and DCNG successfully established a perimeter on the west side of the U.S. Capitol. At 8:00 p.m., the U.S. Capitol Police declared the Capitol building to be secure.[7]

In the wake of the attack, law enforcement and Defense leaders faced criticism and calls for resignations.[16]

Intelligence predicting an attack on the Capitol

DHS, FBI, and local law enforcement

On October 30, 2020, Joseph B. Maher, acting United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis issued an internal memo, writing that the department anticipates incidents of physical violence and civil unrest related to the period "leading up to, including, and immediately following" the election. In the same memo, Maher instituted limits on the dissemination of open-source intelligence reports on election-related security threats, citing "sensitivities and complexities" whereby "Civil unrest and election- or voter-related issues often invoke U.S. Persons and First Amendment-protected activity".[17]

On November 9, 2020, an intelligence analyst at the FBI Hazardous Devices School (a training center of the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI]) circulated an email—prompted by an analysis done by the SITE Intelligence Group—which contained a prediction of violence in connection with the Stop the Steal rallies, and listed concerns about far-right groups' activities in the context of election-related misinformation.[18] In an internal "situational information report" dated December 29, 2020, the FBI Minneapolis field office warned of armed protests at every state capitol, orchestrated by the far-right boogaloo movement, before President-elect Biden's inauguration.[19][20][21]

Three days before the Capitol attack, the Capitol Police intelligence unit circulated a 12-page internal memo warning that Trump supporters see the day of the Electoral College vote count "as the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election" and could use violence against "Congress itself" on that date.[22]

On January 5, the local Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes USCP and MPD as participants, was notified by the FBI of possible impending violence at the Capitol.[23] This involved the sharing of an internal FBI document which warned of rioters preparing to travel to Washington, and setting up staging areas in various regional states. The document used the term "war" to describe the rioters' motive, which mentioned specific violence references, including the blood of Black Lives Matter and Antifa members.[24] However, the FBI decided not to distribute a formal intelligence bulletin.[23][25] The FBI spoke to more than a dozen known extremists and "was able to discourage those individuals from traveling to D.C.", according to a senior FBI official. The NYPD also shared information on extremist rhetoric and threats of violence with the Capitol Police in advance of the protest.[26]

Also on January 5, Capitol Police chief Steven Sund hosted a meeting with a dozen top law enforcement and military officials from D.C., including the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, MPD, and the National Guard. According to Sund, "during the meeting, no entity, including the FBI, provided any intelligence indicating that there would be a coordinated violent attack on the United States Capitol by thousands of well-equipped armed insurrectionists."[27] Robert Contee, the acting Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, said after the Capitol attack that his department had possessed no intelligence indicating the Capitol would be breached.[1] Some security specialists later reported they had been surprised that they had not received information from the FBI and DHS before the event. Reflections on pre-event intelligence failures in the aftermath of the attack revealed the surprise that no threat assessments had been issued, with possible causes for the failure related to DHS personnel changes and law enforcement biases.[28]

Non-governmental

On December 21, 2020, a U.K. political consultant who studies Trump-related extremism tweeted a forecast of what the planned event of January 6 would become, including deaths.[29] In the days leading up to the storming, several organizations that monitored online extremism had been issuing warnings about the event.[30] The Anti-Defamation League published a January 4 warning about calls to violently disrupt the counting. The post said the league was not aware of any credible threats of violence, but noted that "if the past is any indication, the combination of an extremist presence at the rallies and the heated nature of the rhetoric suggests that violence is a possibility."[30][31] Also on January 4, British security firm G4S conducted a risk analysis, which found that there would be violent groups in Washington, D.C., between January 6 and Inauguration Day based on online posts advocating for violence.[30][32] Advance Democracy, Inc., a nonpartisan governance watchdog, found 1,480 posts from accounts related to QAnon that referenced the events of January 6 in the six days leading up to it, including calls for violence.[30]

Preparations for January 6

Police

According to U.S. Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy, law enforcement agencies' estimates of the potential size of the crowd, calculated in advance of the event, varied between 2,000 and 80,000.[33] On January 5, the National Park Service estimated that 30,000 people would attend the "Save America" rally, based on people already in the area.[34]

The Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division of the Capitol Police made a threat analysis on January 3 which was drafted by a single employee who was not aided by a supervisor in writing and distributing the summary to Capitol Police leadership and others.[35][36]

Sund said his department had developed a plan to respond to "First Amendment activities" but had not planned for the "criminal riotous behavior" they encountered.[1] Sund said he directed the department to be placed on "all hands on deck" status,[a] which meant every sworn officer would be working. He also said he activated seven Civil Disturbance Unit platoons, approximately 250 officers, with four of those platoons equipped in helmets, protective clothing and shields.[27] On January 6, under "orders from leadership", the police force deployed without "less lethal" arms such as sting grenades. Department riot shields had been improperly stored, causing them to shatter upon impact.[3]

On January 4, D.C. Mayor Bowser announced that the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPD) would lead law enforcement for the event, and would coordinate with the Capitol Police, the U.S. Park Police, and the Secret Service.[38][b] "To be clear, the District of Columbia is not requesting other federal law enforcement personnel and discourages any additional deployment without immediate notification to, and consultation with, MPD if such plans are underway," Bowser wrote in a letter to the Department of Justice.[38]

Department of Defense

Days after the 2020 election, on November 9, Donald Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, replacing him with Christopher C. Miller.[39] On December 31, 2020, Mayor Muriel Bowser requested District of Columbia National Guard troops be deployed to support D.C. police during the expected demonstrations. In her request, she wrote that the guards would not be armed and that they would be primarily responsible for "crowd management" and traffic direction, allowing police to focus on security concerns. Miller approved the request on January 4, 2021, activating 340 troops, with no more than 114 to be deployed at any given time.[40] In a January 4 memo, Miller prohibited deploying D.C. Guard members with weapons, helmets, body armor or riot control agents without his personal approval.

Three days before the riots, the Department of Defense twice offered to deploy the National Guard to the Capitol, but was told by the Capitol Police it would not be necessary.[33] On January 3, Sund was reportedly refused additional National Guard support by House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving and Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael C. Stenger.[41][42] On January 5, Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy issued a memo directly placing limits on D.C. National Guard. The commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, Major General William J. Walker, explained the change, saying: "All military commanders normally have immediate response authority to protect property, life, and in my case, federal functions – federal property and life. But in this instance, I did not have that authority."[43]

According to Miller's later statements, on January 3, Miller was ordered by Trump to "do whatever was necessary to protect the demonstrators" on January 6.[44] On January 22, Miller disputed the criticism that the Pentagon had delayed deployment of the Guard, calling it "complete horseshit".[45]

January 6 response

Timeline of security collapse and breach

Further information: Timeline of the 2021 United States Capitol attack

Floorplan of the first floor of the Senate side of the Capitol. "A" indicates the location of the first breach into the building at 2:11 p.m. "B" indicates the location of a Capitol Police officer in a doorway before retreating up stairs at 2:14 p.m.
Floorplan of the first floor of the Senate side of the Capitol. "A" indicates the location of the first breach into the building at 2:11 p.m. "B" indicates the location of a Capitol Police officer in a doorway before retreating up stairs at 2:14 p.m.

Bombs discovered near Capitol Complex

One of two pipe bombs discovered adjacent to the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
One of two pipe bombs discovered adjacent to the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Around 12:45 p.m., a bomb was discovered next to a building containing Republican National Committee (RNC) offices by a woman using the shared alleyway to access her apartment building's laundry room.[58] She alerted RNC security, which investigated and summoned law enforcement; U.S. Capitol Police, FBI agents and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) all responded to the RNC bomb.[59]

About thirty minutes later, while officers were still responding at the RNC, they were informed a second pipe bomb had been discovered under a bush at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters.[60][61] Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was inside the DNC headquarters at the time the pipe bomb was discovered.[62] Capitol Police began investigating the DNC pipe bomb at 1:07 p.m., and Harris was evacuated at approximately 1:14 p.m.[62] The devices were of a similar design – about one foot in length.[61][63] They were safely detonated by bomb squads;[60] the pipe bomb at the RNC was neutralized at 3:33 p.m. and the pipe bomb at the DNC was neutralized at 4:36 p.m., according to a Capitol Police timeline.[62] The bombs were fully functional and constructed of galvanized steel pipes, homemade black powder, and kitchen timers.[64][65] The FBI stated that the bombs "were viable and could have been detonated, resulting in serious injury or death."[64]

FBI Wanted Poster offering up to $100,000 for information leading to the conviction of the individual who placed two pipe bombs[66]
FBI Wanted Poster offering up to $100,000 for information leading to the conviction of the individual who placed two pipe bombs[66]

Sund told The Washington Post on January 10 that he suspected the pipe bombs were intentionally placed to draw police away from the Capitol;[67] Representative Tim Ryan (D–OH) echoed the sentiment in a virtual news conference on January 11, saying, "[W]e do believe there was some level of coordination ... because of the pipe bombs ... that immediately drew attention away from the breach that was happening."[68][69] The Inspector General of the Capitol Police later concluded, "If those pipe bombs were intended to be diversion... it worked."[70] As the mob of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol, the discovery of the pipe bombs diverted a large number of already-outnumbered law enforcement officers from the Capitol.[62] Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton testified before Congress that "the bombs drew three teams to investigate" and left only one squad at the Capitol.[64]

The FBI publicly released several videos of the suspect walking around at the time the bombs were placed, along with the bomber's suspected route, and has confirmed that the suspect placed the bombs between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. on the night of January 5, and wore a gray hooded sweatshirt, face mask, glasses, and gloves; carried a backpack; and wore a black and light gray Nike Air Max Speed Turfs with a yellow Nike symbol.[64][71] Despite an intense FBI investigation spanning more than a year, a suspect was never named in the pipe bombings.[72][64] The FBI has offered a $100,000 reward for information about the suspect.[64]

Securing the breached Capitol

West steps of the Capitol at 2:46 p.m.
West steps of the Capitol at 2:46 p.m.

Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund joined a conference call with D.C. government and Pentagon officials at 2:26 p.m. where he "[made] an urgent, urgent immediate request for National Guard assistance", telling them he needed "boots on the ground". However, Lieutenant General Walter E. Piatt, Director of the Army Staff, said he could not recommend that Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy approve the request, telling Sund and others "I don't like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background."[67] Piatt later told The Washington Post he "did not make the statement or any comments similar to what was attributed to me by Chief Sund". Lieutenant General Charles A. Flynn, brother of retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, was also on the phone call.[c]

About 2:31, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered a 6:00 p.m. curfew.[74] Virginia Governor Ralph Northam also issued a curfew for nearby Alexandria and Arlington County in Northern Virginia.[75][76]

Pentagon officials reportedly restricted D.C. guard troops from being deployed except as a measure of last resort, and from receiving ammunition and riot gear; troops were also instructed to engage with protesters only in situations warranting self-defense and could not share equipment with local police or use surveillance equipment without prior approval from Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller.[77][78] McCarthy and Miller decided to deploy the entire 1,100-strong force of D.C. National Guard to quell violence.[79][80] About 3:04, Miller spoke with Pence, Pelosi, McConnell and Schumer, and directed the National Guard and other "additional support" to respond to the riot.[81][79][82] Early reports indicated that the order to deploy the National Guard was initially resisted by Trump, but approved by Pence.[79][83] Miller has disputed this, saying Trump had already given authorization to use the National Guard prior to January 6.[45] Around 3:30, Northam said he was working with Bowser and Congress leaders to respond and that he was sending members of the Virginia National Guard and 200 Virginia State Troopers to support D.C. law enforcement, at the mayor's request.[84] At 3:45, Stenger told Sund he would ask Mitch McConnell for help expediting the National Guard authorization.[67]

Rioters outside the Capitol after the building had been secured
Rioters outside the Capitol after the building had been secured

It took more than three hours for police to retake control of the Capitol, using riot gear, shields, and batons,[85] and up to eight hours to fully clear the Capitol and its grounds.[86] Capitol Police were assisted by the D.C. Metropolitan Police,[85] which sent 850 officers (more than a quarter of the total force) to the Capitol during the event, along with an additional 250 officers to the Capitol grounds.[86] Armed DHS agents had been on standby near the Capitol in case of unrest but were not deployed until after the violence had subsided.[87] Smoke grenades were deployed on the Senate side of the Capitol by Capitol Police working to clear rioters from the building.[88] Black officers employed with Capitol Police reported being subjected to racial epithets (including repeated uses of "nigger") by some of the rioters.[89] Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said he believed the pipe bombs were a deliberate distraction which took significant USCP resources to contain the area and evacuate several Congressional office buildings.[4] FBI and Department of Homeland Security agents wearing riot gear entered the Dirksen Senate Office Building around 4:30.[90]

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced at 4:57 that elements of the New Jersey State Police were being deployed to the District of Columbia at the request of D.C. officials, and the New Jersey National Guard was prepared for deployment if necessary.[91] Shortly before 5:00, congressional leaders were reportedly being evacuated from the Capitol complex to Fort McNair, a nearby army base.[92] Around 5:20, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced that he would send the Maryland State Police and Maryland National Guard, after speaking to the Secretary of the Army.[93][94] Hogan's requests of the Defense Department to authorize National Guard troops to be deployed at the Capitol initially were denied in multiple instances.[95] Around 5:40, the Senate Sergeant at Arms announced that the Capitol had been secured.[96]

Riot police and protesters outside the Capitol during the evening of January 6
Riot police and protesters outside the Capitol during the evening of January 6

As police continued to try to push rioters away from the Capitol, protests continued, with some moving out of the Capitol Hill area. Some verbal and physical attacks on reporters were reported, with attackers denigrating media outlets as providing "fake news".[97] One rioter told a CNN crew as they were being harassed by others, "There's more of us than you. We could absolutely fucking destroy you!"[98] A video on social media recorded a man harassing an Israeli journalist covering the events live.[99]

By 6:08 p.m., police had arrested at least thirteen people and seized five firearms.[100] Although Bowser had ordered a 6:00 p.m. curfew, it went largely ignored by the pro-Trump rioters, hundreds of whom remained in the Capitol Hill area two hours after the curfew went into effect.[101] By 6:14 p.m., Capitol Police, D.C. Metropolitan Police, and DCNG had successfully established a perimeter on the west side of the Capitol,[7] and at 7:30 p.m., the Capitol Police declared the Capitol building to be secure.[7]

Shooting of Ashli Babbitt

Main article: Shooting of Ashli Babbitt

At 2:44 p.m.,[102] as lawmakers were being evacuated by Capitol Police, Ashli Elizabeth Babbitt, a 35-year-old unarmed Air Force veteran, attempted to climb through a shattered window in a barricaded door and was shot in the neck/shoulder by Capitol Police lieutenant Michael Byrd (who was standing on the other side), dying from the wound.[103][104][105][106]

In the minutes before she was shot, the crowd had threatened three uniformed officers posted outside the Speaker's Lobby, adjacent to the House chambers.[107] One member of the mob yelled "Fuck the Blue".[107] One officer guarding the door told the others "They're ready to roll", and the three officers moved away from the door.[107] No longer impeded by police, Zachary Jordan Alam (who was standing next to Babbitt) smashed a glass window leading to the Speaker's Lobby;[108][109] he was later indicted on twelve federal counts, including assaulting officers with a dangerous weapon.[108] A fellow rally attendee who was near Babbitt recalled she had been warned not to proceed through the window: "A number of police and Secret Service were saying 'Get back! Get down! Get out of the way!'; she didn't heed the call."[110]

Republican Representative Markwayne Mullin said he witnessed the shooting; he felt that Lt. Byrd "didn't have a choice" but to shoot, and that this action "saved people's lives".[111][112] According to Mullin, at the time, law enforcement was trying to "defend two fronts" to the House Chamber, and "a lot of members [of Congress] and staff that were in danger at the time".[111][113] Capitol Police officers had been warned that many attackers were carrying concealed weapons, although a subsequent search revealed no weapons in Babbitt's possession.[114] Following the routine process for shootings by Capitol Police officers, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and the Justice Department investigated Babbitt's death and declined to charge Byrd with shooting her.[108][115][116] The Capitol Police additionally said they would not discipline the lieutenant, whose action they deemed "lawful and within Department policy."[117]

Babbitt was a follower of the QAnon conspiracy theory, and had tweeted the previous day "the storm is here", a reference to its prophecy.[113][118][119][120][121] The shooting was recorded on several cameras, and footage was widely circulated.[105][103][122] Babbitt has been called a martyr by some far-right extremists who view her as a freedom fighter.[123] Babbitt's portrayal as a martyr has been compared to the Nazi glorification of Horst Wessel.[124][125]

Police injuries

There were 138 officers (73 Capitol Police and 65 Metropolitan Police) injured,[126] of whom 15 were hospitalized, some with severe injuries.[127] All had been released from the hospital by January 11.[128]

Shortly after 2:00 p.m., several rioters attempted to breach a door on the West Front of the Capitol. They dragged three D.C. Metro police officers out of formation and down a set of stairs, trapped them in a crowd, and assaulted them with improvised weapons (including hockey sticks, crutches, flags, poles, sticks, and stolen police shields) as the mob chanted "police stand down!" and "USA!"[129] At least one of the officers was also stomped.[130]

Some rioters beat officers on the head with lead pipes,[131] and others used chemical irritants, stun guns, fists, sticks, poles and clubs against the police. Some trampled and stampeded police, pushed them down stairs or against statues or shone laser pointers into their eyes. One D.C. Metro officer was hit six times with a stun gun, was beaten with a flagpole, suffered a mild heart attack, and lost a fingertip.[128][132] Three officers were hit on their heads by a fire extinguisher allegedly thrown by a retired firefighter.[133][134][135]

According to the Capitol Police officers' union chairman, multiple officers sustained traumatic brain injuries. One had two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs; another lost an eye.[136] One was stabbed with a metal fence stake, and another lost three fingers.[137] One was crushed between a door and a riot shield while defending the west side of the Capitol with other officers against rioters; he later had headaches he believed stemmed from a concussion.[138] One was dragged by the leg and, a year later, still did not have full use of one arm.[139]

As of June 3, 2021, at least 17 police officers (10 Capitol Police, seven Metropolitan Police) remained out of work due to injuries sustained in the riot five months previously.[140] Of that number, six Metropolitan Police officers were still on medical leave in mid-July; the Capitol Police did not disclose how many of its officers were on leave, but confirmed that some officers had acquired career-ending disabilities.[141][142]

Immediate aftermath

Senators returning to the chamber, flanked by police officers
Senators returning to the chamber, flanked by police officers

The then New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pledged to deploy a thousand members of the New York National Guard to D.C., in addition to the resources promised by other states.[143] On the night of January 6, Bowser issued an order extending the public emergency in Washington, D.C., for 15 days, writing in the order that she expected some people would "continue their violent protests through the inauguration".[144][145] The following day, Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy announced that a fence would be built around the Capitol and remain in place for at least thirty days; construction began that same day. McCarthy also said New Jersey National Guard troops would be mobilized, as would troops from the Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania National Guards.[146]

By the end of the day, police had arrested 61 people for "unrest-related" offenses, with about half of these arrests occurring on the Capitol grounds.[147]

A vehicle containing a semi-automatic rifle and a cooler containing eleven Molotov cocktails was also found nearby.[148][149] The driver was subsequently arrested.[150] He also had three handguns in his possession at the time of his arrest.[151]

D.C. Metropolitan Police incurred high costs, preliminarily estimated to be $8.8 million, responding to the attack on the Capitol and securing downtown D.C. the week after.[86]

Death of Brian Sicknick

Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick was assaulted by rioters. He died of a stroke the next day.[152]
Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick was assaulted by rioters. He died of a stroke the next day.[152]
Brian Sicknick, a United States Capitol Police (USCP) officer, died on January 7, 2021, after having two strokes the day after he responded to an attack on the U.S. Capitol.[153] The District of Columbia chief medical examiner found that Sicknick had died from stroke, classifying his death as natural[d] and additionally commented that "all that transpired played a role in his condition."[155][153][156] His cremated remains were laid in honor in the Capitol Rotunda on February 2, 2021, before they were buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery.[157] The cause of Sicknick's death was first thought to be from injuries, but months later the medical examiner reported there were none.[155] Within a day after his death, the U.S. Capitol Police and the U.S. Justice Department each said that his death was due to injuries from the riot.[158][159][160] Meanwhile media, citing two unnamed law enforcement officials, incorrectly reported for weeks that Sicknick had died after being struck in the head with a fire extinguisher during the unrest.[155][161][162] Brian Sicknick's death was investigated by the Metropolitan Police Department's Homicide Branch, the USCP, and the FBI.[159] On March 14, Julian Khater and George Tanios were arrested for assaulting Sicknick with a chemical spray and for other charges.[163] The medical examiner found no evidence that Sicknick had an allergic reaction to the chemical spray.[155] Prosecutors later said on April 27 that the chemical spray was pepper spray.[164] Neither of the two men have been charged with causing Sicknick's death.[153][165][166]

Suicides

Morale among the Capitol Police plummeted after the riot.[167] The department responded to several incidents where its officers threatened to harm themselves; one officer turned in her weapon because she feared what she would do with it.[167] Four officers from various police departments who responded to the attack died by suicide in the days and months that followed.[168][169] Capitol Police Officer Howard Charles Liebengood died by suicide three days after the attack. Liebengood worked three 24-hour shifts without sleep.[170] Liebengood was survived by his wife Serena, and his two siblings. Liebengood's father was well known to many U.S. Senators, and served as the United States Senate Sergeant at Arms.[171][172]

D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Jeffrey Smith, who was injured in the attack, died by suicide by a gunshot wound to the head at George Washington Memorial Parkway on January 15, after his concussion was misdiagnosed. Dr. Jonathan Arden, the former Chief Medical Examiner of the District of Columbia was hired by Smith's widow as part of her lawsuit to have her husband's suicide ruled "in the line of duty". His report said the "acute, precipitating event that caused the death of Officer Smith was his occupational exposure to the traumatic events he suffered on January 6, 2021".[173][102] On July 30, his attorney David P. Weber filed the opening brief in the attempt, on behalf of Smith's widow, to have his death ruled line of duty.[174] Submitting this report as evidence, on August 13, Smith's widow sued two of his alleged assailants, claiming they caused a traumatic brain injury with a crowbar or a heavy walking stick, leading to his death.[175] According to media reports, Smith's alleged attackers who were named in the lawsuit were identified by an internet vigilante group that analyzed publicly available videos from the Capitol attack.[176][168][177]

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, some members of Congress and press reports included Liebengood's and Smith's suicides in the number of reported casualties, for a total of seven deaths.[178] In July, two more members of law enforcement who responded to the attack died by suicide: Metropolitan Police Officer Kyle Hendrik DeFreytag was found on July 10, and Metropolitan Police Officer Gunther Paul Hashida was found on July 29.[179]

On August 5, 2021, Howard Charles Liebengood and Metropolitan Police officer Jeffrey L. Smith (along with Brian Sicknick and Billy Evans, whose deaths were not the result of suicide) were posthumously honored in a signing ceremony for a bill to award Congressional Gold Medals to Capitol Police and other January 6 responders. Their names are noted in the text of the bill, and Biden remarked on their deaths.[180][181]

Timeline of reinforcement requests

C-SPAN broadcast of the Senate going into recess after rioters infiltrate the Capitol
Tear gas on the west Capitol steps at 4:20 p.m.
Tear gas on the west Capitol steps at 4:20 p.m.

Leaders and agencies involved

Legislative Branch
Michael C. Stenger Sergeant-at-Arms of the Senate[e] On January 3, Stenger was contacted by Capitol Police chief Sund, who requested National Guard in advance of January 6.[186]
Michael C. Stenger.jpg
Paul D. Irving Sergeant-at-Arms of the House[f] On January 3, Irving was contacted by Capitol Police chief Sund, who requested National Guard in advance of January 6. The request was denied by Irving who stated concerns about "optics".[186]
Paul D. Irving official photo.jpg
Steven Sund Chief of Capitol Police[g] On January 6, at 1:49 PM, Sund contacted Gen. William J. Walker, commander of the D.C. National Guard, to request assistance, although Walker did not have the authority to approve the request.[15]
Steven Sund.jpg
Department of Defense
Christopher C. Miller Secretary of Defense (acting)[h] On January 3, Miller was ordered by Trump to "do whatever was necessary to protect the demonstrators" on January 6.[187] The following day, Miller issued orders which prohibited deploying D.C. Guard members with weapons, helmets, body armor or riot control agents without his personal approval.[43]
On January 6, Miller withheld permission to deploy the National Guard until 4:32 pm, after assets from Virginia had already entered the District, FBI tactical teams had arrived at the Capitol, and Trump had instructed rioters to "go home".[49][13] Miller's permission would not actually be relayed to the Commander of the Guard until 5:08.[188]
Christopher C. Miller official portrait.jpg
Ryan D. McCarthy Secretary of the Army[i] On January 5, 2021, McCarthy issued a memo placing limits on the District of Columbia National Guard.[43] On January 6, McCarthy participated in a 1:34 P.M. phone call in which Mayor Bowser requested National Guard deployment. At 2:22 P.M., McCarther participated in as second call with Mayor Bowser and other D.C. officials.[15]
Ryan McCarthy-Acting Secretary of the Army.jpg
Walter E. Piatt Director of the Army Staff Piatt participated in a 2:26 PM conference call in which Capitol Police Chief Sund requested Guards. Piatt announced he would not recommend approving the request, stating "I don't like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background."[15]
Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt.jpg
Charles A. Flynn Deputy Chief of Staff for Army operations, plans and training[j] On January 6, Flynn participated in the 2:26 PM conference call in which Gen. Piatt said he could not recommend Guard be deployed to the Capitol.[67] After the attack, the Army initially denied Flynn had participated in the call.[73] Charles Flynn's role drew scrutiny in light of his brother Michael's recent calls for martial law and a redo election overseen by the military.[73][190]
Lt. Gen. Charles A. Flynn (1).jpg
Daniel Hokanson Chief of the National Guard Bureau On January 6, after having learned that the Virginia National Guard may have mobilized, at 3:46 PM, Hokanson called the Virginia commander, Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, to verify no Virginia military forces would move without prior permission from the Pentagon. At 3:55, Hokanson made a similar call to the commander of the Maryland National Guard.[15]
GEN Daniel R. Hokanson.jpg
William J. Walker Commander of D.C. National Guard[k] On January 1, Walker contacted Army Secretary McCarthy requesting permission to approve Mayor Bowser's request for Guard in D.C.[193]
On January 4, Walker was issued orders forbidding deployment of the D.C. National Guard without the personal approval of Sec. Miller.[43] Walker later explained: "All military commanders normally have immediate response authority to protect property, life, and in my case, federal functions — federal property and life. But in this instance I did not have that authority."[43]
On January 6, Walker repeatedly sought permission to the deploy the Guard, though he did not receive that permission from Sec. Miller until 5:08, after Trump had released a video calling for his supporters to "go home".[15]
Maj. Gen. William J. Walker Official Photo.jpg
Timothy P. Williams Commander of Virginia National Guard On January 6, after Gov. Northam mobilized the Virginia guard, at 3:46 Williams received a call from Gen. Hokanson to verify no Virginia military forces would move without prior permission from the Pentagon.[15][193]
Timothy P. Williams.jpg
District of Columbia
Muriel Bowser Mayor of D.C. During a 1:34 phone call, Bowser requested Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy deploy Guard.[7] In a second call at 2:22, Bowser and D.C. officials again requested DCNG support from Army Secretary McCarthy.[7]
Muriel Bowser official photo.jpg
Robert Contee Chief of D.C. police In a call at 2:22, Contee warned Army Sec. McCarthy of an imminent breach of the capitol and reiterated the need for Guard.[15]
Robert Contee January 2021.jpg
State of Virginia
Ralph Northam Governor of Virginia At 3:33, Northam ordered mobilization of Virginia National Guard.[15]
Governor Ralph Northam Gives Inaugural Address (39348612584) (cropped).jpg
Brian Moran Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security On January 6, after learning of the Pentagon's refusal to deploy Guard, at 2:26 Moran dispatched Virginia State Police to the Capitol.[15]
Brian Moran Rally (cropped).jpg
Dave Rohrer Fairfax County, Virginia, deputy county executive On January 6, at 3:10 PM, Rohrer announced the deployment of Fairfax officers to the Capitol.[194]
Department of Justice
FBI By 4:24 PM, a 12-man armed tactical team had arrived at the Capitol Complex .[15]
Department of Homeland Security
Customs and Border Protection Approximately 50 uniformed, armed personnel were staging in the Reagan Federal Building, which lies on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol. They did not deploy until after Trump had told supporters to "go home".[87]

Criticism of law enforcement agencies

Capitol Police

Pro-Trump protesters around the Capitol on the evening of January 6
Pro-Trump protesters around the Capitol on the evening of January 6

Law enforcement's failure to prevent the mob from breaching the Capitol attracted scrutiny to the Capitol Police and other police agencies involved.[195][196][197] The Capitol Police, which has jurisdiction over an area of around two square miles (5.2 km2), is one of the largest and best-funded police forces in the United States, with around 2,000 officers, an annual budget of more than $460 million, access to a substantial arsenal, and extensive experience of responding to protests and high-profile events; it has more than tripled in size since 1996.[198] Prior to the storming of the Capitol, the barriers erected were low and most officers were in regular uniforms rather than riot gear, aimed at managing a protest rather than deterring an attack.[197] Policing experts criticized the Capitol Police's preparation and initial response, saying the agency had underestimated the potential threat from Trump supporters, unwisely allowed rioters to gather on the Capitol steps, and failed to immediately arrest the rioters, or otherwise respond to the disorder, after the forced entry.[197]

The Washington Post reported that the Capitol Police were caught off guard by an overwhelming crowd whose size more than doubled the FBI's prediction and that the police lacked enough personnel to immediately detain all the intruders; the Post further noted that "some officers were captured on video appearing to stand back as rioters streamed inside."[197][199] Some of the shortfall in staffing was attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, with officers who were quarantined after being infected with or exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.[197] Police units were not asked by management to bring protective equipment (such as gas masks) that were issued to them, which left officers ill-prepared to fend off the rioters – among them, a "heavily trained group of militia terrorists" armed with bear spray and stun grenades and equipped with two-way radios and earpieces – and some having to resort to engaging in hand-to-hand combat to defend themselves.[89]

Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who chairs a committee responsible for Capitol security, said Capitol Police chief Steven Sund lied to her before the event about the preparations he had made and the readiness of the National Guard.[200] Representative Maxine Waters said she had raised concerns with Sund on December 31, and was assured by him that "he had it under control".[42] These statements were refuted by Sund in an 8-page letter he penned to Pelosi a few weeks later, stating "I did not at any time misrepresent any facts.. it was an accurate representation of our intelligence and threat assessment."[186]

Tim Ryan (D–OH), the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch (which has budgetary authority over the Capitol Police), announced that he would begin an inquiry into security lapses that allowed the violent mob to overrun the Capitol and breach the legislative chambers. Ryan indicated that he expected some officers in the Capitol Police to be fired, and cited a "lack of professional planning and dealing" and "strategic mistakes" ahead of "the insurrection and the attempted coup".[201] Representative Anthony G. Brown (D–MD) called for the establishment of a civilian oversight board for the Capitol Police.[202] On the January 7 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough excoriated the Capitol Police response and accused some officers of enabling the rioters to successfully breach the building with little resistance.[203]

Politico reported some rioters briefly showing their police badges or military identification to law enforcement as they approached the Capitol, expecting therefore to be let inside; a Capitol Police officer told BuzzFeed News that one rioter told him "[w]e're doing this for you" as he flashed a badge.[1] Ed Davis, the former commissioner of the Boston Police Department, suggested Capitol Police leaders may have felt "that well, these are a bunch of conservatives, they're not going to do anything like [the ensuing riot]", leading to "a lack of urgency or a sense that this could never happen with this crowd".[33]

In a February 2021 confidence vote organized by the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee, the union representing Capitol Police officers, 92 percent voted that they had no confidence in Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman.[204]

The first public hearing on the security failures was held before the Senate on February 23, 2021.[205]

Accusations of member involvement in riot

Footage emerged on social media of police allowing rioters through barricades into the Capitol, and one officer was filmed taking a "selfie" with a rioter inside the building.[206][207][208] Footage also showed two Capitol Police officers exchanging a handshake and an elbow bump with a rioter inside the Capitol.[209] Representative Jim Cooper (D–TN) was concerned that Capitol Police could have been complicit in the breach, saying "At worst, [Capitol Police] let this protest proceed unlike any other".[210] One participant in the riot said he and his friends had been given directions to the office of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer by a Capitol Police officer.[211][202] Representative Pramila Jayapal (D–WA) said she believed the rioters were aided in planning, and guided once inside the Capitol, by Capitol Police officers.[202] Multiple European security officials, including two intelligence officials from NATO member countries, in interviews with Business Insider suggested the breach may have been abetted by "tacit support" of the attackers among members of Capitol Police and other federal agencies assisting with Capitol complex security.[212]

National Guard

In a letter to acting U.S. Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller on January 11, Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) described the speed with which the D.C. National Guard responded to the riot as "totally inadequate", said "serious questions must be answered regarding the ... readiness of our Armed Forces and federal agencies" to respond to similar events, and called on Miller to explain how the Department of Defense could ensure a "significantly faster" deployment in the event of future emergencies at the Capitol.[213] Testifying before Congress in March 2021, commanding officer of the D.C. National Guard William Walker stated his superiors did not grant him authorization to deploy forces for more than three hours after he had sought it upon the "frantic" request of Capitol Police chief Sund. Walker testified that his superiors expressed concerns about the "optics" of a deployment, noting they had not expressed similar concerns about the quick and aggressive deployment during the George Floyd protests months earlier.[6]

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley told the House committee investigating January 6 that Pence, not Trump, had ordered the deployment of the National Guard. Milley revealed that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows had told him, essentially, that Pence was in charge of this, but that it was a secret. "We have to kill the narrative that the vice president is making all the decisions. We need to establish the narrative, you know, that the President is still in charge and that things are steady or stable," Milley said, echoing what he remembered Meadows telling him. He clarified that Meadows had said either this "or words to that effect."[14]

Accusations of differential treatment

US Supreme Court Police officers before the storming
US Supreme Court Police officers before the storming

News outlets fact-checked[214] and described harsher tactics and differential treatment of racial injustice protests in D.C. during the prior summer by law enforcement compared to those used against the Capitol rioters, although admittedly with missing context.[215][216][217][218] According to CNN, police had arrested 61 people on the day of the storming; eclipsing all but one day of protests the previous summer, where 316 Black Lives Matter protesters were arrested on June 1, 2020.[219] Rioters who were arrested after the storming tended to be charged with less serious crimes than those arrested in racial injustice protests.[219][220]

The tone, vocabulary, and tactics used by Trump and the White House were highlighted by news outlets. Trump referred to racial injustice protesters as "thugs", "agitators", and "looters" and threatened violence,[221] but expressed his "love" for the Capitol rioters.[222] In 2020, Trump had encouraged states' governors to more aggressively target protesters and used violent rhetoric such as "when the looting starts, the shooting starts".[221] News outlets noted how the White House had used forceful tactics to clear protesters for Trump's photo op at St. John's Episcopal Church but did not employ similar tactics during the Capitol riot.[218][220][223] Similarly, Capitol Police responded aggressively to disabled protesters associated with ADAPT in 2017.[221] During 2020, Trump ordered tough federal law enforcement responses to racial injustice protesters in Washington D.C.[214]

Multiple media outlets covered posts from users on social media which made claims that due to white privilege[221] and male privilege,[217] the police treated the protesters, who were mostly white men,[114][224][225][226] with more leniency than they would people of color,[227] with many citing a moment when a police officer took a selfie with a protester.[228]

Many news outlets, including CNN,[229] USA Today,[230] The Guardian,[218] The Washington Post,[231] and CBS News,[232] criticized the police response to the storming of the Capitol in contrast to the police response to the Black Lives Matter protests in the previous year. In June 2020, during Black Lives Matter demonstrations, 5,000 National Guard members guarded the White House;[218] however, in an attempt to avoid inflaming tensions since those protests, Mayor Muriel Bowser opted not to call National Guard members from other states for the January 6 demonstrations, causing the law enforcement presence to be "relatively small" and "not prepared for rioters".[233][234]

Politicians and officials commented on the differential treatment as well. Joe Biden said, "No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, there wouldn't have been – they would have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol".[223] Representative Tim Ryan, former First Lady Michelle Obama, and D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine all noted the differential treatment.[223][201] Representative Bennie Thompson (D–MS), the chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said "if the 'protesters' were Black they would have been shot with rubber bullets, tear gassed, and killed".[202] Citing disparities in the use of force when compared to recent Black Lives Matter protests, first-year Representative Jamaal Bowman (D–NY) proposed legislation to investigate whether members of the Capitol Police have ties to white supremacist groups.[235]

Investigations

On January 8, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee launched a joint investigation into the Capitol Police's security failures.[236] The law enforcement failures that allowed the storming of the Capitol led the U.S. Secret Service to initiate a review of its security plans for the inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20, 2021.[197]

On January 11, Representative Ryan disclosed that two Capitol police officers had been suspended and at least ten were under investigation following the events of the riot.[237] In February 2021, the number was updated to thirty-five officers that were under investigation; six officers who were suspended with pay, and twenty-nine that were still working.[238]

In September, Capitol Police said that its office of professional responsibility had started 38 internal investigations, as a result of which it has recommended disciplinary action against six members of the force for their conduct during the attack; no criminal charges were announced.[239]

Resignations

Ken Cuccinelli, acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, touring the Capitol after the attack to survey damage
Ken Cuccinelli, acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, touring the Capitol after the attack to survey damage

The day after the attack, Pelosi called upon Capitol Police chief Steven Sund to resign, citing a failure of leadership, and said she had been unable to reach Sund since the attack.[16] Although Sund felt the decision was uninformed and premature, he submitted his resignation that afternoon, which was effective on January 16, 2021. An aide to speaker Pelosi later clarified that Pelosi had indeed spoken with Sund on the evening of January 6, but not after that time.[41] That day, Sund wrote to the Capitol Police Board saying he would resign effective January 16,[240][200][241] but on the next day, January 8, Sund resigned with immediate effect.[241] Yogananda D. Pittman became acting chief.[242]

Also on the day after the attack, Paul D. Irving announced his resignation as Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives. Chuck Schumer said he would fire Michael C. Stenger, Sergeant-at-Arms of the Senate, upon becoming majority leader later in January.[200] Shortly thereafter, outgoing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asked for and received Stenger's resignation, effective immediately.[200]

Changes in response to criticism

Based on the recommendations of several critical reports, Capitol Police was reported in July to be working to "pivot towards an intelligence-based protective agency"; the force opened regional offices California and Florida to investigate threats to members of Congress. A "critical incident response plan" was developed with an aim to "quickly mobilize ... manpower, including the Department of Defense, to respond to planned and/or no-notice emergencies". Other adjustments such as boosting surveillance, protection, and staffing were also announced.[243]

Notes

  1. ^ Contrary to early reports.[37]
  2. ^ Jurisdictionally, MPD is responsible for city streets of the National Mall and Capitol area, whereas the Park Police are responsible for the Ellipse (the site of Trump's speech and rally that day), the Secret Service is responsible for the vicinity of the White House, and the Capitol Police is responsible for the Capitol complex itself.[38]
  3. ^ The Army initially denied Charles Flynn's participation but confirmed it on January 20, when Flynn himself told The Washington Post he had "entered the room after the call began and departed prior to the call ending".[73]
  4. ^ "Natural: Used when a disease alone causes death. If death is hastened by an injury, the manner of death is not considered natural."[154]
  5. ^ Stenger resigned after the attack.
  6. ^ Irving resigned after the attack.
  7. ^ Sund resigned after the attack.
  8. ^ On November 9, 2019, Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, replacing him with Christopher C. Miller.[39]
  9. ^ On June 21, 2019, Trump nominated McCarthy to become Secretary of the Army.[189]
  10. ^ On November 30, 2020, Flynn's nomination for promotion to general was submitted to the U.S. Senate; the nomination was confirmed by voice vote on December 20, 2020.
  11. ^ In March 2018, Trump nominated Walker for promotion to Major General and selected him as the Commanding General.[191] In the wake of the attack, on April 26, 2021, Walker was appointed Sergeant at Arms of the House of Representatives.[192]

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