National Guard sent to D.C. as police defend response to mob takeover at Capitol

By: - January 7, 2021 3:15 pm

As night fell in the nation’s capital, Washington DC police and Virginia National Guard restored order. (Alex Kent/ For the Tennessee Lookout)

WASHINGTON — A day after a violent mob seeking to overturn the election forced its way into the U.S. Capitol, the chief of the law enforcement officers tasked with protecting that building and those who work inside said Thursday that “a thorough review” is underway of the incident and the security procedures that fell short.

In a continuing response to the pro-Trump insurrection, the D.C. National Guard has been mobilized, with additional support coming from state National Guardsmen from Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and New York, according to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy.

In his first public statement since rioters quickly overpowered his force, United States Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund defended his officers as having “responded valiantly when faced with thousands of individuals involved in violent riotous actions.”

“The (United States Capitol Police) had a robust plan established to address anticipated First Amendment activities,” Sund said. “But make no mistake — these mass riots were not First Amendment activities; they were criminal riotous behavior.”

But one of the largest questions from Wednesday’s chaos was how exactly the rioters were able to enter the Capitol so easily. Two House Democrats who oversee funding for the Capitol Police announced plans for a review of the law enforcement response.

Sund confirmed reports that a Capitol Police officer shot and killed one of the rioters, Ashli Babbitt, who has been identified in media reports as a San Diego resident. The shooting occurred just outside the House chamber, as the mob sought to force its way inside, where lawmakers were sheltering.

That officer is on administrative leave pending an investigation by Capitol Police and D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department.

D.C. law enforcement officials said three other individuals from Pennsylvania, Georgia and Alabama also died on Wednesday, all believed to be the result of unspecified medical emergencies.

Sund said more than 50 officers from the Capitol Police and D.C.’s police department were injured, including several who were hospitalized.

“We recognize the bravery of the Capitol Police and law enforcement officers who protected members and essential workers in the Capitol Complex yesterday,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), in a joint statement with House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). “At the same time, it is obvious that there was a severe systemic failure in securing the building’s perimeter and in the response once the building was breached.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday called for a congressional commission to review the security failures, adding: “We must also understand why the federal law enforcement response was much stronger at the protests over the summer than during yesterday’s attack on Congress.”

Sund said in his written statement that as the rioters were attacking Capitol Police officers and forcing their way inside, officers also were responding to two reports of pipe bombs and a suspicious car in the surrounding area.

He identified the locations of those bomb reports as the blocks where the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee have their headquarters. Those explosive devices were determined to be dangerous and were disabled, Sund said, adding that the devices were turned over to the FBI for investigation.

The owner of the suspicious car was arrested, according to Sund. The Capitol Police website lists 14 arrests on Wednesday, most for unlawful entry. D.C’s Metropolitan Police reported 68 individuals arrested Wednesday evening, with 41 of those arrests occurring on U.S. Capitol grounds, where rioters continued to gather past the city’s 6 p.m. curfew.

Police officials said they are seeking to identify other individuals involved in the destructive riots.

More physical reinforcements also could be seen near the Capitol grounds Thursday morning. A 7-foot-high non-scalable fence was being erected around the Capitol, and officials said that fence will remain in place for at least the next 30 days.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Laura Olson
Laura Olson

Laura covers the nation's capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit outlets that includes Virginia Mercury. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections, and campaign finance.

MORE FROM AUTHOR