Despite the widespread coverage of and attention to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump insurrectionists, law enforcement agencies been largely reticent to provide direct briefings to the press and updates for the public about what happened.
But on Wednesday, a statement from the Capitol Police Union, the officers on the front lines of the siege, shared new details and assessments of the attack that weren't previously known. It added new information in response to the closed-door testimony of Yogananda Pittman on Tuesday, the acting head of the U.S. Capitol Police, whose remarks were reported by multiple outlets.
In the days since the attack, much of the information and videos that have come out revealed the events were much darker, more violent, and more organized than many initially believed. Because many of the people who stormed the Capitol wore ridiculous costumes or acted in absurd ways, some news viewers were led to believe the invasion was a largely farcical stunt. But in reality, the insurrection was a deadly serious expression of violent and menacing forces within American politics.
Here are seven horrifying details we have learned about the attack:
1. The Capitol Police leadership had ample warning of the attack
Pittman said in her testimony:
By Jan. 4, the Department knew that the Jan. 6 event would not be like any of the previous protests held in 2020. We knew that militia groups and white supremacists organizations would be attending. 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.
While she admitted that the department failed to adequately prepare for the events, and didn't request the help of the National Guard ahead of time, lawmakers are still trying to understand why this failure occurred.
Pittman said there were only 1,200 Capitol Police officers on duty on Jan. 6, far too few to respond to the siege from a crowd of tens of thousands of protesters.
2. Officers themselves, however, were unaware of these warnings
"The disclosure that the entire executive team (former Chief Sund, now Acting Chief Pittrnan, and Assistant Chief Thomas) knew what was coming but did not better prepare us for potential violence, including the possible use of firearms against us, is unconscionable," the union said in the statement. "The fact they did not relay this information to the officers on duty prior to the insurrection is inexcusable."
3. Nearly 140 officers were injured
"Between USCP and our colleagues at the Metropolitan Police Department, we have almost 140 officers injured," the union said. Until now, it had not been clear how extensive the injuries were.
4. Some of the surviving officers are stilling coping with severe injuries
"I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack who have sustained brain injuries. One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs," said Union Chairman Gus Papathanasiou. "One officer is going to lose his eye, and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake."
These injuries were not previously reported. Only the death of officer Brian Sicknick, who died the following day after sustaining injuries in the siege, had been reported.
5. The union alleges a breakdown in communication from leadership during the attack
"Acting Chief Pittman cites radio communications as a problem during the riots, but the real communications breakdown was the silence from our leadership, before the insurrection and while it was underway. They failed to share key intelligence with officers in advance, they failed to prepare adequately, they failed to equip our officers with a plan, and on that very day, they failed to lead. This was not a 'whole Department' failure, but a leadership failure," the chairman said.
6. Deep discontent is brewing among the Capitol Police's ranks
"The officers are angry, and I don't blame them. The entire executive team failed us, and they must be held accountable. Their inaction cost lives," he continued. "Our Union has long advocated for more training, more staff, and better equipment, only to be repeatedly ignored by our leadership. Yet, Acting Chief Pittinan now blames these glaring inadequacies for contributing to the failure to protect the Capitol on January 6."
7. Another officer has died by suicide following the attack
In addition to Sicknick's death, another officer was reported to have died by suicide after the attack. On Wednesday, multiple outlets reported that Jeffrey Smith, a D.C. Police officer, killed himself following the Jan. 6 event.