One Officer’s January 6 Testimony: “Terrorists pushed through the line and engaged us in hand-to-hand combat.”

Officer Daniel Hodges, speaking to the Select Committee

He did it: Officer  Hodges went there — he used that taboo word. The “T” word. Again & again.

Testimony: Officer Daniel Hodges, Metropolitan Police Department, excerpts from testimony July 27, 2021, before the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. [Source: the Select Committee]

Good morning to the Committee, members of the press, and to the country. . . .

As the Chairman mentioned I am a member of Civil Disturbance Unit 42 and was working in that capacity on the day in question. A fully-staffed CDU platoon consists of one Lieutenant, four Sergeants, and twenty-eight Officers. . . .My particular station was in front of 1111 Constitution Avenue, where I stood on foot as the crowd poured down the street and into the park.

There were a significant number of men dressed in tactical gear attending the gathering. Wearing ballistic vests, helmets, goggles, military face masks, backpacks, and without identifiable, visible law enforcement or military patches, they appeared to be prepared for much more than listening to politicians speak in a park. . . .

Over the radio I heard our Gun Recovery Unit working constantly, monitoring those in the crowd suspected of carrying firearms and making arrests and seizures when possible. Multiple gun arrests were made from January 5th through the 7th against those attending, planning to attend, or had attended Donald Trump’s gathering. Unfortunately due to the course of events that day we will likely never know exactly how many were carrying firearms and other lethal weapons. . . .

Returning to my post I continued monitoring the radio. . . The last thing I remember hearing over the air before departing for the Capitol grounds was confirmation that our Explosive Ordinance Disposal team had discovered a “device”. Given which unit was being associated with this “device” I immediately realized MPD had discovered a bomb of some type near the Capitol. This thought was never far from my mind for the rest of the day.

We ran back to our vans and got on our hard gear as quickly as we could . . .

The crowd was thinner the further out from the Capitol you were, so as we marched the resistance we initially met was verbal. A man sarcastically yelled “Here come the boys in blue! So brave!” Another called on us to “remember your oath.” There was plenty of boo-ing. A woman called us “stormtroopers”. Another woman, who was part of the mob of terrorists laying siege to the Capitol of the United States, shouted “Traitors!” More found appeal in the label, and shout “Traitors!” at us as we pass; one man attempted to turn it into a duosyllabic chant. We continue to march. . . .

However as we came close to the terrace our line was divided and we came under attack. A man attempted to rip my baton from my hands and we wrestled for control. I retained my weapon and after I pushed him back, he yelled at me “You’re on the wrong team!”

Cut off from our leadership at the font of our formation we huddled up and assessed the threat . . .

I was at the front of our group and determined we had to push our way through the crowd in order to join the defense proper, so I began shouting “Make way!” as I forged ahead, hoping that I’m clearing a path for the others to follow. However as I looked back I saw that the rest of the group came under attack and were unable to follow. The crowd attempted to physically bar the rest of the platoon from following. I backtrack[ed] and started pulling terrorists off of my team by their backpacks. Around this time one of the terrorists who had scaled the scaffolding that adorned the Capitol at the time threw something heavy down at me and struck me in the head, disorienting me (I suspect this resulted in the likely concussion I dealt with in the weeks after).

Another man attempted to disarm me of my baton, and we wrestled for control. He kicked me in my chest as we went to the ground. I was able to retain my baton again, but I ended up on my hands and knees and blind; the medical mask I was wearing to protect myself from the coronavirus was pulled up over my eyes so I couldn’t see. I braced myself against the impact of their blows and feared the worst. Thankfully my platoon had repelled their own attackers and got me back on my feet. The crowd started chanting “U-S-A!” at us, and we struck out again for the west terrace.

I led the charge again through the midst of crowd-control munitions, explosions, and smoke engulfing the area. Terrorists were breaking apart metal fencing and bike racks into individual pieces, presumably to use as weapons. . . . I realized that back during the previous assault someone had stolen my radio; from that point on I was in the dark as to our current status and when reinforcements would arrive. Terrorists were scaling the scaffolding on both our sides, the tower that was in front of us, and attempting to breach the waist-high metal fencing that was the only barrier we had, aside from ourselves.

The sea of people was punctuated throughout by flags. Lots of American flags and Trump flags. Gadsden [“Don’t Tread On Me”] flags.

It was clear the terrorists perceived themselves to be Christians: I saw the Christian Flag directly to my front. Another read “Jesus is my Savior, Trump is my President.” Another, “Jesus is King.”

One flag read, “Don’t give up the ship”. Another had crossed rifles beneath a skull emblazoned with the pattern of the American flag. To my perpetual confusion, I saw the Thin Blue Line flag, a symbol of support for law enforcement, more than once being carried by the terrorists as they ignored our commands and continued to assault us.

The acrid sting of CS gas (tear gas) and OC spray (mace) hung in the air, as the terrorists threw our own CS gas canisters back at us and sprayed us with their own OC, either that they brought themselves or stole from us. Later I learned that at least one of them was spraying us in the face with wasp spray.

The terrorists alternated between attempting to break our defenses and shouting at or attempting to convert us. Men alleging to be veterans told us how they had fought for this country and were fighting for it again. One man tried to start a chant of “Four-more-years!” Another shouted “Do not attack us! We are not ‘Black Lives Matter!'” as if political affiliation is how we determine when to use force. A man in a “QAnon” hoodie exclaim[ed], “This is the time to choose what side of history to be on!” A man whose shirt read “God Guns & Trump” stood behind him, silently holding a Trump flag.

A new man came to the front and fixated on me, continually berated me, telling me to take off my gear and give it to him: “show solidarity with ‘we the people’ or we’re going to run over you!” his voice cracked with the strain and volume of his threats. He continued, “Do you think your little pea-shooter guns are going to stop this crowd? No! We’re going in that building!”

Eventually there was a surge in the crowd, the fence buckled and broke apart and we were unable to hold the line. A chaotic melee ensued. Terrorists pushed through the line and engaged us in hand-to-hand combat. Several attempted to knock me over and steal my baton. One latched onto my face and got his thumb in my right eye, attempting to gouge it out. I cried out in pain and managed to shake him off before any permanent damage was done. I couldn’t engage anyone fully for the moment I do is when another twenty terrorists move in to attack while I am occupied. It’s all we could do to keep ourselves on our feet and continue to fall back. I was sprayed with a fire extinguisher and a red smoke grenade burned at our feet.

In the fight a terrorist was knocked to the ground and [then] his jacket rides up, exposing a large hunting knife on his belt. I along with several other Officers piled on him while another removed the knife from his person. He regained himself, unharmed, and shouts indignantly, “What are you doing! What are you guys doing!”

The terrorists had claimed most of the western terrace, cornering myself and other Officers on the southern edge. We took a side stair off the terrace, up to an upper landing, followed by more stairs up and inside.

Inside the Capitol building Officers walked through the halls briefly until they found a place to sit, decontaminate their faces of OC and CS, and take a quick breather. I followed suit.  . . . I took the opportunity of relative safety to don my gas mask. Not long afterward I heard someone calling for Officers to move to assist. I steeled myself for another round and descended a stairway into a long hallway filled with smoke and screams.

The Capitol building is labyrinthine, but judging from the sound of intense combat I could tell this hallway led outside to where the terrorists had forced our retreat. Officers were stacked deep, but every so often one would fall back from the front line, nursing an injury or struggling to breathe, and those who remained would take a step forward.

It was a battle of inches, with one side pushing the other a few and then the other side regaining their ground. At the time, I (and I suspect many others in the hallway) did not know that the terrorists had gained entry to the building by breaking in doors and windows elsewhere, so we believed ours to be the last line of defense before the terrorists had true access to the building, and potentially our elected representatives.

Eventually it was my turn in the meat grinder that was the front line. The terrorists had a wall of shields that they had stolen from Officers, as well as stolen batons and whatever other armaments they brought. Even during this intense contest of wills they continued to try to convert us to their cult. One man shouted “We just want to make our voices heard! And I think you feel the same! I really think you feel the same!”, all while another man attempted to batter us with a stolen shield. Another man, like many others, didn’t seem to appreciate that this wasn’t a game. He fought his way across the lawn, up the steps, through the western terrace, and at the front line of this final threshold was asking us to “hold on” because he “has asthma”.

The two sides were at a stalemate at a metal door frame that sat in the middle of the hallway. At the front line, I inserted myself so that the frame was at my back in an effort to give myself something to brace against and provide additional strength when pushing forward. Unfortunately soon after I secured this the momentum shifted and we lost the ground that got me there. On my left was a man with a clear riot shield stolen during the assault. He slammed it against me and, with the weight of all the bodies pushing behind him, trapped me. My arms were pinned and effectively useless, trapped against the shield on my left or the door frame on my right. With my posture granting me no functional strength or freedom of movement, I was effectively defenseless and gradually sustaining injury from the increasing pressure of the mob.

Directly in front of me a man seized the opportunity of my vulnerability. He grabbed the front of my gas mask and used it to beat my head against the door. He switched to pulling it off my head, the straps stretching against my skull and straining my neck. He never uttered any words I recognized, but opted instead for guttural screams. I swear I remember him foaming at the mouth. He also put his cell phone in his mouth so that he had both hands free to assault me.

Eventually he succeeded in stripping away my gas mask, and [then]a new rush of exposure to CS gas and OC spray hit me. The mob of terrorists were coordinating their efforts now, shouting “Heave! Ho!” as they synchronized pushing their weight forward, crushing me further against the metal door frame. The man in front of me grabbed my baton that I still held in my hands and in my current state I was unable to retain my weapon. He bashed me in the head and face with it, rupturing my lip and adding additional injury to my skull.

At this point I knew that I couldn’t sustain much more damage and remain upright. At best I would collapse and be a liability to my colleagues, at worst be dragged out into the crowd and lynched. Unable to move or otherwise signal the Officers behind me that I needed to fall back, I did the only thing I could still do and screamed for help.

Thankfully my voice was heard over the cacophony of yells and the blaring alarm. The Officer closest to me was able to extricate me from my position and another helped me fall back to the building again.

I found some water and decontaminated my face as best as I could. I don’t know how long I waited in the halls but soon after got back on my feet and went to where the fight was again. Until reinforcements arrived every able body made a difference.

Without my gas mask I was afraid I’d be a liability in the hallway so I took the exit outside to the upper landing above the west terrace. I found a police line being held and the terrorists encircling us, much like on the west terrace. It was getting later in the day however, and it appeared we weren’t the only ones getting tired. It seemed most of the mob was content to yell rather than to break our line again.

After some time of guarding the upper landing I saw reinforcements arrive from the south. I’m not sure which law enforcement agency it was but I turned to them and started clapping, as it was a sign that badly needed help was starting to finally arrive.

Soon after that I started feeling the effects of the day taking their toll, and I went back inside to rest. Gradually all the members of CDU 42 gathered in the room known as the Capitol Crypt. We checked on each other and convalesced, glad to see each other in one piece. Despite our exhaustion, we all would have ran out to the fight again should the need have arisen. Thankfully as the day wore on, more and more resources arrived at the Capitol to drive off the terrorists. We stayed in the Crypt until quite late, and even after we were allowed to leave the grounds we didn’t get to go home. Those who needed immediate medical attention took a van to the local hospital while the rest of us parked near the city center until the city was deemed secure enough for us to check off. I believe we finally got that message around 1 AM the following morning. We drove back to the Fourth district and from there went home.

2 thoughts on “One Officer’s January 6 Testimony: “Terrorists pushed through the line and engaged us in hand-to-hand combat.””

  1. I watched the entire riveting testimony, often with tears in my eyes. All the while thinking, how would I have responded if I were in the middle of the melee? I was moved by the last committee member’s comment that these things happen gradually, then suddenly. When insufficient work is done to recognize the causes of violence or address grievance, we risk such events. Then there’s Rupert Murdoch…but maybe I should just stop there, ha.

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