Drew Angerer/Getty Images
The House panel heard Thursday night from U.S. Capitol police officer Caroline Edwards, who described it as the first law enforcement officer injured in the Jan. 6 riot.
It also played video of her being violently knocked to the ground by protesters who broke through a barrier outside the Capitol and knocked her unconscious — the first of several injuries she sustained that day.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” she recalls the scene, which she likened to a war zone. “There were officers on the ground. They were bleeding, they were vomiting… I saw friends with blood all over their faces, I slipped in people’s blood. I caught people as they fell. It was a massacre, it was chaos. I can’t even describe what I saw.”
Several law enforcement officers who responded to the riots, as well as relatives of those who died as a result, watched as Edwards described her experience.
Edwards said that as the crowd grew, she told her sergeant “the understatement of the century,” ‘Sarge, I think we need a few more people here.'”
The officers in that part of the Capitol grounds seized bike racks to keep the protesters at bay and buy time so more units could respond.
As officers and protesters struggled around the bike racks, she remembers one hitting her head and pushing her backwards. Her foot caught on one of the concrete stairs behind her and her chin hit the railing before losing consciousness and her head hitting the stairs.
Edwards returned to duty after regaining consciousness, helping to treat the injured and disinfect people who had been sprayed with pepper spray. She eventually got back on the line on the lower West Terrace, where she said Officer Brian Sicknick stood behind her for about half an hour as they tried to stop the protesters.
Sicknick died the next day of what the DC coroner ruled of natural causes resulting from two strokes. His mother, Gladys Sicknick, was at the hearing and could be seen hugging other officers present.
“All of a sudden I saw movement to my left, and I turned and it was Officer Sicknick with his head in his hands. He was ghostly pale,” Edwards said, adding that she knew something was wrong because people generally turn red, not white, after being sprayed with pepper spray.
“I looked back to see what happened to him, what happened, and that’s when I get sprayed in the eyes too,” she said.
Edwards said another officer started taking her away to be decontaminated, but they didn’t get the chance because they were hit with tear gas. The committee also played a clip from that moment.
Edwards was seen at the end of the hearing hugging Sicknick’s longtime partner Sandra Garza and telling her, “I’m sorry you had to see that.”
Previously, the panel played a 10-minute video featuring new graphics from the Capitol that day, including from a documentary filmmaker who later testified.
She suffered a traumatic brain injury during the riots
In her opening statement, Edwards described her dedication to her job of protecting elected officials, saying that her patriotism had never been questioned until that day. She recalled spending hours—including weekends and holidays—in the blazing sun and icy snow, allowing lawmakers to do their jobs, and shedding blood, sweat, and tears to defend the building during the riots.
Edwards invoked her late grandfather, a United States Marine who fought in the Korean War and lived the rest of his life with shrapnel still in his body.
“I am a proud American and will gladly sacrifice anything to ensure that the America my grandfather defended will be here for many years to come,” she added.
Edwards suffered a traumatic brain injury during the riot that prevented her from returning to the Capitol Police’s First Responder Unit, the commission said. She hopes to return to service later this year.
More than 140 officers from the US Capitol Police and DC Metropolitan Police were injured while defending the grounds that day, according to a statement from the US Capitol Police Labor Committee on Thursday. Four officers died by suicide in the aftermath of the attack.
Gus Papathanasiou, president of the Capitol Police Officers’ Union, said officers are monitoring the hearings and hope they will prompt Congress to increase support and resources for the military to deal with the “high threat environment” facing she faces every day.
He said the number of threats against members of Congress has risen from about 5,200 in 2018 to more than 9,600 last year, and that a security investigation revealed the USCP must hire 884 additional officers.
It’s not just a matter of hiring more officers, but retaining existing ones, he added, urging Congress to address the “great disparity” in retirement benefits between the USCP and other federal law enforcement agencies. to grab.
Papathanasiou said the force is also trying to hold multiple parties accountable — including the intelligence chief, who will remain in her position even after a vote of no confidence, as well as “who carried out the attack and those who conspired to make it happen.”
“We trust that the Justice Department will vigorously prosecute all those who attacked our officers and those who threatened the peaceful transfer of power,” he added.