After failing to prevent a torrent of Trump supporters from breaching the Capitol on Thursday, the Capitol police force issued its first statement on the event.
In the Thursday statement, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said that while his office had developed a “robust plan” for peaceful protests, it was unprepared for “criminal riotous behavior.”
Sund’s remarks constitute the first attempt at an account of what took place — and what went wrong — from the police’s standpoint.
Planning for the wrong event
The main thrust of Sund’s remarks was that the police had been prepared for “maintaining public safety in an open environment,” but not for an overwhelming “violent attack on the U.S. Capitol.”
It raises the question of why the police weren’t prepared, given that many of the rioters had publicly proclaimed their intention to do just that in the days and weeks before Jan. 6.
That may be answered, per Sund’s statement, by a review the force is conducting of “security planning, policies, and procedures” in advance of the assault.
Sund did suggest in the statement that officers were diverted to respond to two pipe bombs: one at the RNC headquarters and another at the DNC headquarters. He said that the two devices had been disarmed and given to the FBI.
But why were they so woefully short on officers in the first place? Some reports have suggested that Capitol authorities were planning for a subtler presence in response to criticism about the heavy-handed response to Black Lives Matter protestors from over the summer. But shouldn’t there be a place between the overwhelming response of the summer and a defensive force that can deter and control an angry mob?
Among other things, Sund confirmed that the woman who was shot dead at the Capitol on Wednesday was named Ashli Babbitt, a member of the mob that stormed the legislature.
Sund said that the Capitol police officer who fired on Babbitt had been placed on administrative leave.
The statement adds that Babbitt was shot as the crowd was going “toward the House Chamber where Members of Congress were sheltering in place.” Other details around the shooting remain unclear, but Sund’s statement is the first confirmation that the woman’s death occurred as the mob was making its way towards the area where congressional representatives had holed up.
Sunds’ statement does not address the deaths of three others during the riot, which D.C. officials attributed to “medical complications” without providing any further detail.
Sund said that more than 50 Capitol Hill and D.C. police officers had been wounded during the assault, several of whom have been hospitalized.
He said that the mob had attacked officers with metal pipes, chemical irritants, and “other weapons.”
Sund added that the National Guard, as well as federal law enforcement, supported the response. But it’s still unclear from the statement how many officers were initially deployed to protect the Capitol, and when federal partners got involved, and why it took so long for that to happen.
Read the statement here.