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Photos: Jan. 6 hearings begin. 'I recall thinking to myself, this is how I'm going to die'

LA Times logo LA Times 7/28/2021 Robert St. John
a group of people posing for the camera: U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, from left, Washington Metropolitan Police Officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges, and Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn are sworn in to testify Tuesday on Capitol Hill before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. (Andrew Harnik / Pool/Getty Images) © Provided by The LA Times U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, from left, Washington Metropolitan Police Officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges, and Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn are sworn in to testify Tuesday on Capitol Hill before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. (Andrew Harnik / Pool/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Four Capitol and Metropolitan Police Department officers on Tuesday recounted their experience fighting off the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol during the first hearing of a new House committee investigating the attack.

“I recall thinking to myself, this is how I’m going to die, defending this entrance,” Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell said. “I could have lost my life that day, not once, but many times.”

Dressed in uniforms, the officers struggled at times to deliver the emotional testimony and graphic descriptions.

Kevin McCarthy et al. standing in front of a building: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks during a news conference Tuesday ahead of the House select committee hearing investigating the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times) © (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times) House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks during a news conference Tuesday ahead of the House select committee hearing investigating the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times) Adam Schiff et al. standing next to a man in a suit and tie: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and members of the House select committee meet at the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times) © (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times) Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and members of the House select committee meet at the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times) Zoe Lofgren sitting on a table: Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) listens to Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) during a meeting Tuesday in the Cannon House Office Building. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times) © (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times) Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) listens to Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) during a meeting Tuesday in the Cannon House Office Building. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times) a group of people standing in a room: Members of a House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol arrive for the hearing Tuesday. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times) © (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times) Members of a House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol arrive for the hearing Tuesday. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

At one point during a video presentation, Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone placed his hand on Gonell’s shoulder and whispered in his ear. Others dabbed their eyes with tissues, cleared their throats repeatedly and paused to drink water throughout their testimony.

Gonell said he was more scared on Jan. 6 than he was during his Army tour of duty in Iraq. He said when he arrived home at 4 a.m. Jan. 7, he could not even hug his wife because his uniform was so soaked in chemical irritants he had been sprayed with.

a man wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera: U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn becomes emotional during Tuesday's House committee hearing. (Chip Somodevilla / Pool/AFP/Getty Images) © (CHIP SOMODEVILLA/POOL PHOTO) U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn becomes emotional during Tuesday's House committee hearing. (Chip Somodevilla / Pool/AFP/Getty Images) a man wearing a suit and tie: Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges testifies during Tuesday's hearing about the Jan. 6 insurrection. ( Jim Bourg / Pool/Getty Images) © ( Jim Bourg / Pool Photo) Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges testifies during Tuesday's hearing about the Jan. 6 insurrection. ( Jim Bourg / Pool/Getty Images) a man wearing a suit and tie: Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone testifies during Tuesday's House hearing. (Andrew Harnik / Pool/AFP/Getty Images ) © (ANDREW HARNIK/POOL PHOTO) Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone testifies during Tuesday's House hearing. (Andrew Harnik / Pool/AFP/Getty Images ) a man wearing a uniform: U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell reacts to testimony on Tuesday. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / Pool/AFP/Getty Images) © (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/POOL PHOTO) U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell reacts to testimony on Tuesday. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

Less than four hours later he was back at work. He faces multiple surgeries from injuries to his shoulder, legs and feet, and at least a year of rehabilitation.

Tuesday’s hearing, which was meant to set the tone for what is expected to be a months-long investigation, focused primarily on the officers and what they experienced fighting off the melee for several hours. Some Republicans, including former President Trump, have sought to downplay the event as a largely peaceful protest that got out of control.

a group of people in uniform sitting at a table: Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, far left, Officer Michael Fanone, second from left, and Officer Harry Dunn, far right, listen while Officer Daniel Hodges testifies. (Brendan Smialowski / Pool/Getty Images) © (Brendan Smialowski / Pool Photo) Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, far left, Officer Michael Fanone, second from left, and Officer Harry Dunn, far right, listen while Officer Daniel Hodges testifies. (Brendan Smialowski / Pool/Getty Images) a man wearing a suit and tie: A man reacts as he watches a video from the Jan. 6 Capitol riot during Tuesday's hearing. (Oliver Contreras / Pool/AFP/Getty Images) © (Oliver Contreras / Pool Photo) A man reacts as he watches a video from the Jan. 6 Capitol riot during Tuesday's hearing. (Oliver Contreras / Pool/AFP/Getty Images) Adam Kinzinger wearing a suit and tie: Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) becomes emotional as he questions witnesses at Tuesday's hearing. (Oliver Contreras / Pool/AFP/Getty Images) © (OLIVER CONTRERAS/POOL PHOTO) Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) becomes emotional as he questions witnesses at Tuesday's hearing. (Oliver Contreras / Pool/AFP/Getty Images) a man holding a wine glass: Officers Michael Fanone and Harry Dunn embrace after the hearing. (Jim Bourg / Pool/Getty Images) © (Jim Bourg / Pool Photo) Officers Michael Fanone and Harry Dunn embrace after the hearing. (Jim Bourg / Pool/Getty Images) a man wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a crowd: Sgt. Aquilino Gonell shakes hands with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) as Officer Michael Fanone is hugged by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). (Brendan Smialowski / Pool/Getty Images) © (Brendan Smialowski / Pool Photo) Sgt. Aquilino Gonell shakes hands with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) as Officer Michael Fanone is hugged by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). (Brendan Smialowski / Pool/Getty Images) a group of people sitting in front of a crowd: Members of the House select committee speak to the media after the panel's first hearing Tuesday. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times) © (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times) Members of the House select committee speak to the media after the panel's first hearing Tuesday. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times) Adam Kinzinger, Adam Schiff, Zoe Lofgren are posing for a picture: Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), left, Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), center, and Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), second from center, depart after the committee's first hearing Tuesday. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times) © (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times) Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), left, Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), center, and Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), second from center, depart after the committee's first hearing Tuesday. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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