In tearful testimony Tuesday, U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell described how he was nearly crushed while trying to prevent rioters from breaching the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, ‘This is how I’m going to die, trampled defending this entrance,’” Gonell said, frequently wiping back tears as he spoke.
Gonell, an Iraq War veteran and naturalized U.S. citizen who immigrated from the Dominican Republic as a child, was one of four law enforcement officers who testified during the first public hearing of the House select committee to investigate the violent Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. He described how he and his fellow officers were sprayed with chemicals and beaten with a variety of weapons including, most shockingly to Gonell, an American flag.
"I did not recognize my fellow citizens, or the United States they claimed to represent," Gonell said, comparing the violence he and fellow law enforcement officers encountered that day to “something from a medieval battle.”
“The rioters were vicious and relentless,” he said.
Gonell said he heard members of the mob, who chanted “Trump sent us” as they breached the Capitol, making specific threats against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then-Vice President Mike Pence.
“Rioters called me traitor, a disgrace, shouted that I, an Army veteran and police officer, should be executed,” he recalled.
Gonell, who said he has been on medical and administrative leave for much of the past six months due to injuries he sustained on Jan. 6, questioned why those who “express outrage” over athletes kneeling in protest against police violence have not similarly condemned the “violent attack on our democracy” that left him and more than 140 other law enforcement officers injured.
“I’m still waiting for them,” he said.
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