Capitol police defend actions surrounding pipe bombs found Jan. 6

U.S. Capitol Police on Tuesday defended their actions on Jan. 6, 2021, as House Republicans zeroed in on pipe bombs found near the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Republican National Committee (RNC) that day.

Tuesday kicked off a series of hearings by the House Administration Committee’s Oversight subcommittee on the events of Jan. 6. The panel, led by Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), on Monday released a report aimed at discrediting the conclusions drawn by the Democratic-led Jan. 6 Select Committee in the previous Congress and its findings about former President Trump being responsible for the attack on the Capitol.

The report criticized the select committee for dedicating “almost no resources into investigating the pipe bombs.” In a post online, Loudermilk said the select committee did not conduct a “genuine investigation” and focused on a “predetermined narrative” against Trump.

On Tuesday, Assistant Chief of Police for Uniformed Operations Sean Gallagher said the department’s failure to properly respond to the pipe bombs was due to the need to respond to the riot at the Capitol.

“It looked chaotic because it was chaotic,” Gallagher told the subcommittee.

Loudermilk dinged Capitol police and Vice President Harris’s Secret Service detail not finding the bombs in an initial sweep. He showed video clips of a Secret Service dog sniffing the area but not alerting the handler to the location where the bomb was later found.

Loudermilk also presented security camera footage and audio recordings from Capitol police during their response to the pipe bombs.

“One of the questions the subcommittee is interested in, as part of our Oversight responsibilities, is the law enforcement response after the devices were discovered, specifically setting and maintaining a secure perimeter around those devices,” Loudermilk said.

The recordings show that police failed to maintain a secure perimeter around the explosives, which were placed sometime on Jan. 5 and discovered in the early afternoon on Jan. 6.

Civilians walked past, cars drove by, and Gallagher said there was a miscommunication about the evacuation of Harris from the DNC building. In one of the audio recordings played by Loudermilk, an officer was audibly distressed that cars and people were so close to the bomb.

Gallagher said in the hearing that since the DNC building was off Capitol grounds, the calls for a suspicious package, once it was discovered, fell into the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). MPD asked Capitol police to take over with its bomb squad.

Sean Dennis, a bomb technician officer who worked for the Department of Homeland Security, also sat on the panel. He emphasized the importance of securing a perimeter in this situation, ensuring law enforcement and civilians are far enough away for the bomb squad to begin working.

Democrats, meanwhile, sought to bring the topic of conversation back to Trump and the reason bombs were placed and protesters were in Washington in the first place. Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) thanked the law enforcement officers for protecting the public especially from those “who choose to use bombs instead of ballots.”

Rep. Joe Morelle (D-N.Y.) expressed frustration that “the occupant of the White House at the time” did not call on the National Guard, which could have “clearly aided” local law enforcement dealing with the pipe bombs and the Capitol attack.

Gallagher on Tuesday said Capitol Police has acknowledged that there were failures in responding to the developing and historic scenes in and around the Capitol that day.

“I want to be upfront and honest. The U.S. Capitol Police haven’t shied away from the failures of that day, and those failures result in the leadership of Capitol police, not the police officers that were outnumbered,” he said, noting that 80 officers reported injuries and the death of “two of our heroes.”

Gallagher later acknowledged that one of the largest issues law enforcement faced on Jan. 6 was a lack of officers. He argued he would rather have sent additional officers to help their colleagues contending with the pro-Trump mob at the Capitol than have more tending to the pipe bombs.

“I would gladly give up a perimeter not being perfect to be able to get officers responding to help their brothers or sisters who were calling for help at the U.S. Capitol,” Gallagher said. “It was a chaotic day. We did not have enough police officers.”

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