Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund on Thursday defended his department’s response to the violent breach at the Capitol, saying officers “acted valiantly when faced with thousands of individuals involved in violent riotous actions” as they stormed the building.
House Leader Nancy Pelosi said at a press conference she was calling for Sund to submit his resignation.
She said that the Sergeant-at-arms for the House of Representatives, Paul Irving, had already resigned. Irving was responsible for maintaining order in the House side of the United States Capitol complex.
Rioters “actively attacked” Capitol police and other law enforcement officers Wednesday with metal pipes, discharged chemical irritants, and took up other weapons against our officers,” Sund said in a statement.
The attack on the Capitol was “unlike any I have ever experienced in my 30 years in law enforcement here in Washington, D.C.,” said Sund, a former city police officer. “Make no mistake: these mass riots were not First Amendment activities; they were criminal riotous behavior. The actions of the USCP officers were heroic given the situation they faced.”
Sund’s statement came after lawmakers from both parties vowed an investigation into how law enforcement handled Wednesday’s violent breach at the Capitol, questioning whether a lack of preparedness allowed a mob to occupy and vandalize the building.
Capitol Police, who are charged with protecting Congress, turned to other law enforcement for help with the mob that overwhelmed the complex and sent lawmakers into hiding. Both law enforcement and Trump supporters deployed chemical irritants during the hourslong occupation of the complex before it was cleared Wednesday evening.
Four people died, one of them a woman who was shot and killed by police inside the Capitol. Three other people died after suffering “medical emergencies” related to the breach, said Robert Contee, chief of the city’s Metropolitan Police Department.
Police said 52 people were arrested as of Wednesday night, including 26 on the Capitol grounds. Fourteen police officers were injured, Contee said.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, said the breach “raises grave security concerns,” adding that her committee will work with House and Senate leaders to review the police response — and its preparedness.
Lawmakers crouched under desks and donned gas masks while police futilely tried to barricade the building when people marched to the Capitol from a rally near the White House in support of President Donald Trump. Washington’s mayor instituted an evening curfew in an attempt to contain the violence.
Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., a former police chief, said it was “painfully obvious” that Capitol police “were not prepared for today. I certainly thought that we would have had a stronger show of force, that there would have been steps taken in the very beginning to make sure that there was a designated area for the protesters in a safe distance from the Capitol.”
The mob broke windows, entered both the Senate and House chambers and went into the offices of lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, suggested there could be leadership changes at the Capitol police.
“I think it’s pretty clear that there’s going to be a number of people who are going to be without employment very, very soon because this is an embarrassment both on behalf of the mob, and the president, and the insurrection, and the attempted coup, but also the lack of professional planning and dealing with what we knew was going to occur,” Ryan said.
Updated Thursday, January 7, 2021 at 2:43 pm .