Inside, we were getting overrun. The teams of two ended up getting separated. Now we’re just one-man units. It was so confusing because everybody was everywhere. They didn’t just come through the doors; they came through the windows. We were just outmatched. This fight starts going on for hours. You’ve got a mask on. There’s OC spray [a kind of pepper spray] in the air. All these factors are contributing to officer fatigue. Everybody’s just running on adrenaline, just pure adrenaline.
At one point, I confronted a group of terrorists in the crypt. There were downed officers behind me, and, I’m like, “I have to hold this hallway.” I’m tired, but I said, “Y’all not coming through here.” They said, “We’re coming. This is our house. We’re taking over.” That’s when I said, “We’ve got dozens of downed officers here. Why are y’all doing this? Get out!” I guess it was a group of the Oath Keepers and they appeared to be concerned. “Officers are hurt?” That’s when one guy said, “We’re doing this for you,” and showed me his badge. He was an officer. But they didn’t get through me. Only one person attempted to get through me at that time, and he met the floor. He met the floor. Finally, officers with armored gear responded and held that area.
Now, there was a moment when racist slurs were used against you.
So I run up the stairwell. There’s people freaking everywhere. They saw I came from an area that wasn’t occupied by terrorists. So they tried to go down the steps. I said, “No, you’re not going down there.” And I’m exhausted. They’re saying, “Trump is our rightful president. Nobody voted for Joe Biden.” I needed to catch my breath. So I said, “I voted for Joe Biden. What? My vote doesn’t matter?” A woman responded, “This [slur] voted for Joe Biden!” Everybody that was there started joining in. “Hey, [slur]!” It was over 20 people who said it.
Later, you broke down in the Rotunda.
Once the F.B.I. and all these other officers arrived, the Capitol started getting cleared out and more secure. The officers who had been fighting from the start, a lot of us just sat down on the floor. There was trash everywhere. The smoke was thick. I saw one of my buddies who I’ve known basically since I’ve been on the department, and we just looked at each other. And we just started talking about the day and how we were hurting. A war is made up of 100 battles. We were all in the war, but we all had different battles. A lot of us Black officers fought a different battle than everybody else fought. I said to my buddy, “I got called [slur] a couple dozen times today.” I’m looking at him. He’s got blood on him. I’ve got bloody knuckles. We’re hurting. That’s when I said, “Is this America?” and I started crying. Tears are coming down my face. “Is this America?”
I know you want to stay away from politics, but how did you feel when your experience was referenced in the impeachment trial?
At that time, I hadn’t gone public yet. But a lot of people knew my story. I was in the middle of the Rotunda crying. I was loud. I didn’t hide it. I was starting to heal, and it kind of brought me back there all over again. It was a rough time.
How has the impact of the violence of Jan. 6 been on officers’ mental health?
It took a horrific toll on us. Counselors have been available, but I think a lot of people are reluctant to use them. Mental health has always been a stigma. Nobody wants to talk about it. If you appear to be broken or hurt, you’re weak. Now people are wondering, “Can I even go tell them that I’m not OK without them taking my gun from me and losing my job?” I want people to know it’s OK and it’s normal to feel a certain kind of way.
Source: NYT > U.S. > Politics