Capitol police officer on Jan. 6: ‘One of the worst days of my life’

U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn says that while it’s been two years since rioters attacked the building on Jan. 6, his memories of that day remain fresh and painful.

Dunn was outside on the west side of the Capitol, trying to hold the line with other officers, when the sheer number of right-wing rioters began to overwhelm them. Then it was a battle, all day long.

“It was a horrific experience, one of the worst days of my life,” Dunn said in an interview with WTOP. “A lot of times, throughout the day, our thoughts were just on survival.”

‘How is this going to end?’

Dunn noted that former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said that the thousands of rioters outnumbered officers by a ratio of 58 to 1.

Dunn, who is 6 feet, 7 inches tall and played college football, is an imposing man. Like other officers, he did all he could to stop the swelling horde of people.

After defending the Capitol near the inauguration platform, he and other officers went back inside the Capitol, hearing it had been breached. He managed to stop a group in the Crypt, which is located below the Rotunda.

FILE – Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Eventually, he found himself dealing with members of the Oath Keepers, as he tried to protect an area outside the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Dunn, who is Black, dealt with racist taunts. As the day wore on, he remembers that while being “in the thick of it,” he thought to himself, “How is this going to end?”

‘Unanswered questions’

In the aftermath, Dunn and other officers attended the Jan. 6 House committee hearings, and he testified before the panel about his harrowing experience. Dunn said that overall, he’s pleased with the Jan. 6 investigation and how it uncovered more details of what happened.

“I do believe there’s some unanswered questions,” he said. “And hopefully, the Justice Department can get to the bottom of those unanswered questions.”

He also hopes the Justice Department probe will result in accountability for those who partook in the insurrection.

The Jan. 6 committee made criminal referrals involving former President Donald Trump to the Justice Department, which will have the final decision on whether to press charges against various individuals.

Dunn said that on Jan. 6, officers were just concerned with doing their job.

“While we were in the moment of that day, we weren’t thinking about defending democracy or protecting the certification of the election,” he said, noting that was a “byproduct” of doing their work.

“Our job is to protect the members of Congress and the building and the people inside – the guests, the visitors,” he added. “So that members of Congress can do their jobs [and] their constitutional responsibilities.”

‘Wake-up call’

Dunn hopes security reforms implemented in the wake of the attack will help him and his fellow officers do all they can to protect the Capitol grounds.

“I hope, trust and pray that everybody saw what happened and took it as a wake-up call,” he said. “This was bad, and we can’t let this happen again.”

At least 140 law enforcement officers were injured during the attack, and many have had to deal with mental issues related to the experience.

Dunn said he took some days off this week, including the anniversary on Friday.

“I haven’t forgot about it at all, I never will,” he said. “Some days are better days than others. So I just continue to hope that most days are better than others.”

Mitchell Miller

Mitchell Miller has worked at WTOP since 1996, as a producer, editor, reporter and Senior News Director. After working "behind the scenes," coordinating coverage and reporter coverage for years, Mitchell moved back to his first love -- reporting. He is now WTOP's Capitol Hill reporter.

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