Donald Trump is said have watched with glee the riot that he incited at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, safely ensconced in the safe, secure White House. He was pleased to see images of thousands of his supporters fighting to “take back our country” and help keep him in power.
Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone has a far different perspective on the mayhem. As he and other officers fought to keep the mob from breaching the building’s West Terrace doors, which open into a tunnel-like hallway that provides access to an area beneath the Rotunda, he realized they were not up against just a few dozen people. “We were battling 15,000 people. It looked like a medieval battle scene,” Fanone told the Washington Post in one of the most chilling first-hand accounts yet from officers involved in defending the Capitol and lawmakers.
Fanone is a 40-year-old plain clothes narcotics detective and was with his partner in another part of the District when they heard a radio call about the scene unfolding on Capitol Hill. They sped to their precinct, where Fanone pulled his unworn police uniform from his locker and then raced to the Capitol with his partner. “They were overthrowing the Capitol, the seat of democracy, and I f—ing went,” Fanone said.
They quickly found themselves engaged in life or death hand-to-hand combat. He and other police officers quickly were overwhelmed by the violent mob that was driven to the scene by the “law and order” president. Someone in the crowd grabbed Fanone’s helmet, knocked him to the ground and dragged him on his stomach down a set of steps. All of it was captured on video. The 20-year law enforcement veteran was Tasered several times in the back of the neck. Fanone suffered a mild heart attack and was drifting in and our of consciousness.
The rioters began stripping him of his gear – spare ammunition, police radio, his badge – all the while chanting “USA.” But then he heard something that sent him into full survival mode. “Some guys started getting a hold of my gun and were screaming out, ‘We got one! We got one! Kill him with his own gun,” Fanone recalls. He says he thought about using his gun to defend himself, but without enough ammunition to fend off the entire mob he realized he would be doomed.
“So, the other option I thought of was to try to appeal to somebody’s humanity. And I just remember yelling out that I have kids. And it seemed to work,” said the father of four daughters. A group within the rioters surrounded Fanone and protected him until help arrived. They saved his life. Of that intervention, Fanone said this: “Thank you, but f*** you for being there.”