READ: U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn's Account of What Happened Jan. 6

U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn was a 13-year veteran of the force when he found himself defending the U.S. Capitol during the insurrection on January 6, 2021, but he said the events he witnessed that day were unlike any he had seen before.

Dunn was among the law enforcement officers who provided testimony to the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack during its first hearing on July 27, 2021. After being introduced by Chairman Bennie G. Thompson, Dunn, a Black man, described the racism he encountered that day as well as the physical assaults.

His account is just one story of what transpired a year ago today. Below is his full testimony from last summer to the committee.

Officer Dunn
U.S. Capitol Police officer Sgt. Harry Dunn described the racism and violence he experienced during the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021. Dunn is pictured here testifying before the House select committee investigating the attack on July 27, 2021, at the Canon House Office Building in Washington, D.C. Getty

"Chairman Thompson, members of the select committee, thank you for the opportunity today to give my account regarding the events of January 6, 2021 from my firsthand experience as a Capitol Police officer directly involved in those events, and still hurting from what happened that day. I'm provided this testimony solely in my personal capacity, and not as a representative of the United States Capitol Police.

Before I begin, I'd like to take a moment of my time to ask for a moment of silence for my fallen colleague, Officer Brian Sicknick, who died from injuries he sustained in the line of duty defending the Capitol of our beloved democracy. Thank you.

I reported for duty at the Capitol as usual early on the morning of January 6. We understood that the vote that certified President Biden's election will be taking place that day, and protests might occur outside the Capitol, but we expected any demonstrations to be peaceful expressions of First Amendment freedoms, just like the scores of demonstrations we had observed for many years.

After roll call, I took my overwatch post on the east front of the Capitol, standing on the steps that led up to the Senate Chamber. As the morning progressed, I did not see or hear anything that gave me cause for alarm, but around 10:56 a.m., I received a text message from a friend forwarding a screenshot of what appeared to be the potential plan of action, very different from a peaceful demonstration. The screenshot bore the caption, 'January 6th, rally point Lincoln Park,' and said the objective was the Capitol.

It said amongst other things that 'Trump has given us marching orders, and to keep your guns hidden.' It urged people to bring 'your trauma kits and gas mask, to link up early in the day in 6- to 12-man teams.' It indicated there would be time to arm up.

Seeing that message caused me concern. To be sure looking back now, it seemed to foreshadow what happened later. At the time though, we had not received any threat warnings from our chain of command. I had no independent reason to believe that violence was headed our way.

As the morning progressed, and the crowd of protestors began to swell on the east side of the Capitol, many displaying Trump flags, the crowd was chanting slogans like, 'Stop the steal' and, 'We want Trump,' but [the] demonstration was still being conducted in a peaceful manner.

Early that afternoon, Capitol Police dispatch advised all units over the radio that we had an active 10-100 at the Republican National Committee nearby. 10-100 is police code for suspicious package, such as a potential bomb. That radio dispatch got my attention, and I started to get more nervous and worried, especially because the crowds on the east front of the Capitol were continuing to grow.

Around the same time, I started receiving reports on the radio about large crowd movements around the Capitol, coming from the direction of the Ellipse to both the west and east fronts of the Capitol. Then I heard urgent radio calls for additional officers to respond to the west side, and an exclamation, a desperate voice that demonstrators on the west side had breached the fence.

Now, it was obvious that there was a direct threat to the Capitol. I quickly put on a steel chest plate, which weighs approximately 20 pounds, and carrying my M4 rifle, sprinted around the north side of the Capitol to the West Terrace and the railing of the inaugural stage, where I had a broad view of what was going on. I was stunned by what I saw.

In what seemed like a sea of people, Capitol Police officers and Metropolitan Police officers, MPD, were engaged in desperate hand-to-hand fighting with rioters across the west lawn. Until then, I had never seen anyone physically assault Capitol Police or MPD, let alone witness mass assaults being perpetrated on law enforcement officers. I witnessed the rioters using all kinds of weapons against officers, including flagpoles, metal bike racks that they had torn apart, and various kinds of projectiles. Officers were being bloodied in the fighting. Many were screaming, and many were blinded and coughing from chemical irritants being sprayed in their faces.

I gave decontamination aid to as many officers as I could, flushing their eyes with water to dilute the chemical irritants. Soon thereafter, I heard, 'Attention all units, the Capitol has been breached,' and that rioters were in various places inside the building.

At that point, I rushed into the Capitol with another officer, going first to the basement on the Senate side, where I'd heard an MPD officer needed a defibrillator. After returning outside to the West Terrace to assist the officers, I went back into the Capitol and up the stairs towards the crypt. There, I saw rioters who had invaded the Capitol carrying a Confederate flag, a red MAGA flag, and a 'Don't Tread on Me' flag. I decided to stand my ground there to prevent any rioters from heading down the stairs to the lower West Terrace entrance because that's where officers were getting decontamination aid and were particularly vulnerable.

At the top of the stairs, I confronted a group of insurrectionists, warning them, 'Do not go down those steps.' One of them shouted, 'Keep moving, patriots.' Another displayed what looked like a law enforcement badge, and told me, 'We're doing this for you.' One of the invaders approached me like he was going to try to get past me and head down the stairs. I hit him, knocking him down.

After getting relieved by other officers in the crypt, I took off running upstairs towards the Speaker's Lobby and helped the plainclothes officer who was getting hassled by insurrectionists. Some of them were dressed like members of a militia group, wearing tactical vests, cargo pants and body armor. I was physically exhausted, and it was hard to breathe and to see because of all the chemical spray in the air.

More and more insurrectionists were pouring into the area by the Speaker's Lobby near the rotunda and some wearing MAGA hats and shirts that said, 'Trump 2020.' I told them to just leave the Capitol, and in response, they yelled, 'No, man, this is our house. President Trump invited us here. We're here to stop the steal. Joe Biden is not the president. Nobody voted for Joe Biden.'

I'm a law enforcement officer, and I do my best to keep politics out of my job, but in this circumstance, I responded, 'Well, I voted for Joe Biden. Does my vote not count? Am I nobody?' That prompted a torrent of racial epithets. One woman in a pink MAGA shirt yelled, 'You hear that guys? This n****r voted for Joe Biden.' Then the crowd, perhaps around 20 people, joined in screaming, 'Boo, fucking n****r.'

No one had ever, ever called me a n****r while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer.

In the days following the attempted insurrection, other Black officers shared with me their own stories of racial abuse on January 6. One officer told me he had never in his entire 40 years of life been called a n****r to his face, and that streak ended on January 6. Yet another Black officer later told me he had been confronted by insurrectionists in the Capitol who told him, 'Put your gun down and we'll show you what kind of n****r you really are.'

To be candid, the rest of the afternoon is a blur, but I know I went throughout the Capitol to assist officers who needed aid and helped expel more insurrectionists. In the crypt, I encountered Sergeant Gonell, who was giving assistance to an unconscious woman who had been in the crowd of rioters on the west side of the Capitol. I helped to carry her to the area of the House majority leader's office, where she was administered CPR.

As the afternoon wore on, I was completely drained, both physically and emotionally, and in shock and in total disbelief over what had happened. Once the building was cleared, I went to the rotunda to recover with other officers, and share our experiences from what happened that afternoon.

Representative Rodney Davis was there offering support to officers, and when he and I saw each other, he came over, and he gave me a big hug. I sat down on the bench in the rotunda with a friend of mine, who was also a Black Capitol Police officer and told him about the racial slurs I endured. I became very emotional, and began yelling, 'How the blank could something like this happen? Is this America?' I began sobbing. Officers came over to console me.

Later on January 6, after order and security had been restored in the Capitol through the hard work and sacrifices of law enforcement, members took the floor of the House to speak out about what had happened that day.

Among them was House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who along with my fellow officers I had protected that day, and will protect today and tomorrow. I had protected that day and will protect today and tomorrow. And the minority leader, to his great credit, said the following to the House: 'The violence, destruction, and chaos we saw earlier was unacceptable, undemocratic, and un-American. It was the saddest day I've ever had serving in this institution.'

Members of the select committee, the minority leader was absolutely right, how he described it took place in the Capitol. And for those of us in the Capitol Police who serve and revere this institution and who love the Capitol building, it was the saddest day for us as well. More than six months later, January 6 still isn't over for me.

I've had to avail myself of multiple counseling sessions from the Capitol Police Employee Assistance Program, and I'm now receiving private counseling therapy for the persistent emotional trauma of that day. I've also participated in many peer support programs with fellow law enforcement officers from around the United States. I know so many other officers continue to hurt, both physically and emotionally.

I want to take this moment to speak to my fellow officers about the emotions they are continuing to experience from the events of January 6. There's absolutely nothing wrong with seeking professional counseling. What we went through that day was traumatic, and if you are hurting, please take advantage of the counseling services that are available to us.

I also respectfully ask that this select committee review the available resources, the services available to us, and consider whether they are sufficient enough to meet our needs, especially with respect to the amount of leave that we are allowed.

In closing, we can never again allow democracy to be put in peril as it was on January 6. I thank the members of the select committee for your commitment to determine what led to disaster at the Capitol on January 6, what actually took place that day, and what steps should be taken to prevent such an attack on our democracy from ever happening again.

I also want to thank and acknowledge my brothers and sisters in blue who fought alongside me on January 6 to protect our democracy. Each of you is a hero, and it is my honor to serve with you each and every day.

I'd like to thank the American people for all of the support that they have provided these past several months to me and my fellow officers.

Lastly, to the rioters, the insurrectionists, and the terrorist of that day, democracy went on that night and still continues to exist today. Democracy is bigger than any one person and any one party. You all tried to disrupt democracy that day, and you all failed.

Thank you again for the opportunity to testify, and I will be happy to answer any questions that you may have."