Six Capitol Police suspended, 29 others under investigation for alleged roles in riot

"I think they were complicit,” says retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who is reviewing Capitol security failures

By Igor Derysh
February 19, 2021 6:28PM (UTC)
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U.S. Capitol Police Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman departs at the conclusion of a congressional tribute to the late Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick who lies in honor in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on February 3, 2021, in Washington, DC. Officer Sicknick died as a result of injuries he sustained during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. He will lie in honor until February 3 and then be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. (Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)

Capitol Police announced on Thursday that the agency has suspended six officers for their alleged role in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and that dozens of other officers are under investigation.

A spokesman for the Capitol Police told WTTG that 35 officers in total are under investigation in connection to the riot, which killed five people and injured dozens of Capitol and Washington, D.C., police officers.


"Our Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the actions of 35 police officers from that day. We currently have suspended six of those officers with pay," a spokesman said in a statement to the outlet. "Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman has directed that any member of her department whose behavior is not in keeping with the Department's Rules of Conduct will face appropriate discipline."

CNN previously reported last month that at least 10 officers were under investigation and two had been suspended.

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who chairs an appropriations subcommittee that oversees Capitol Police funding, told the network last month that one of the officers was suspended for taking a selfie with the rioters while the other wore a "Make America Great Again" hat and was seen directing people around the Capitol complex. Lt. Tarik Khalid Johnson, the Black officer who wore the MAGA hat, told The Wall Street Journal that he put the hat on in an effort to help rescue one of his colleagues.


Videos taken on Jan. 6 show that the perimeter set up by Capitol and D.C. police was quickly overrun by violent Trump supporters, some of whom are reportedly members of hate groups like the Proud Boys and extremist groups like the Oath Keepers. But some videos showed officers standing by as the pro-Trump crowd funneled through the Capitol doors.

At least 13 off-duty police officers from around the country took part in the riot, according to The Washington Post, some of whom have been arrested or face disciplinary action from their departments.

Some Black Capitol Police officers, who reportedly faced a barrage of racial slurs during the riot, have faulted the department for failing to respond to racism within its ranks, telling ProPublica that they had repeatedly sued the department and issued warnings about racist officers.


"We got Jan. 6 because no one took us seriously," former officer Sharon Blackmon-Malloy told the outlet.

Some officers said that department leaders had actively prevented officers from responding more forcefully to the invading mob.

"There were command-level people telling (officers) to put their sticks away," one officer told CNN. "One came up and grabbed his arm ... and said, 'Stop, stop, we don't do that to protesters.'"


Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund resigned after the riot after saying that his requests for National Guard backup had repeatedly been denied due to concerns about "optics" expressed by former House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger, both of whom resigned shortly after the riot. Some officials have also said that the Pentagon delayed its response to the Capitol despite pleas from Congress, governors and D.C. local officials.

Pittman, who replaced Sund, said in January that the department "has been actively reviewing video and other open source materials of some USCP officers and officials that appear to be in violation of Department regulations and policies."

Pittman, who was Sund's top deputy, told Congress last month that the department had "failed to meet its own high standards" and did not take the necessary steps in response to the "strong potential for violence."


"We knew that militia groups and white supremacist organizations would be attending," she said. "We also knew that some of these participants were intending to bring firearms and other weapons to the event. We knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target."

Gus Papathanasiou, the head of the Capitol Police union, said after Pittman's testimony that department leadership had failed to warn officers of the threat.

"The disclosure that the entire executive team knew what was coming but did not better prepare us for potential violence, including the possible use of firearms against us, is unconscionable," he said in a statement. "They have a lot to atone for."


Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died following the attack, though the circumstances around his death are unclear. Sicknick collapsed at his division office and later died "due to injuries sustained while on-duty," the department has said. Investigators now believe initial reports that Sicknick had been struck with a fire extinguisher are inaccurate, although he was reportedly sprayed with a chemical irritant by the rioters. Sicknick's brother told ProPublica that he died of a stroke resulting from a blood clot.

About 140 Capitol and D.C. officers were injured in the attack. Two other Capitol Police officers died by suicide in the weeks following the riot.

Earlier this week, the Capitol Police union issued a vote of no-confidence in Pittman and six other department leaders.

"The results of our No Confidence vote are overwhelming because our leadership clearly failed us," Papathanasiou said in a statement. "We know because we were there."


The Senate Homeland Security and Rules committees will hold a joint hearing next week to examine the security failures that resulted in the Capitol breach. Sund, Irving, Stenger and acting D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee have been asked to testify.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has called for a "9/11-type commission" to investigate the Capitol riot. Pelosi also appointed retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré to review the Capitol's security leading up to the riot.

Honoré told WVUE that Capitol officers who "were doing their job showed a lot of constraint" but faulted the department's leadership for the security failure.

"I've just never seen so much incompetence, so they're either that stupid, or ignorant or complicit. I think they were complicit," he told the outlet, later adding that the failure to assemble enough officers ahead of the event "has led me to believe that there was some complicity on behalf of the Capitol police and that will come out in the investigation. I hope I'm wrong."

Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is a staff writer at Salon. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

Tips/Email: Twitter: @IgorDerysh

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