Pushback on Capitol Police chief testimony continues

Union, Architect of the Capitol question chief’s claims

Gus Papathanasiou, chairman of the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee, says close to 140 Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police Department officers were injured in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Gus Papathanasiou, chairman of the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee, says close to 140 Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police Department officers were injured in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Posted January 27, 2021 at 3:55pm, Updated at 6:38pm

Corrected, 6:38 p.m. | The Capitol Police officers’ union and the Architect of the Capitol are rebutting and clarifying aspects of acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda D. Pittman’s testimony this week before the House Appropriations Committee, casting more doubt on the department’s leadership.

Pittman on Tuesday told lawmakers that she was sorry on behalf of the Capitol Police for its failure to adequately prepare for the Jan. 6 insurrection despite having advance knowledge that extremist groups were bringing weapons to the capital city with the goal of targeting Congress.

She also told congressional appropriators that she called for a lockdown as the pro-Trump mob grew closer to breaching the Capitol and that former Chief Steven Sund asked the Capitol Police Board on Jan. 4 to declare a state of emergency and authorize a request for National Guard support, but that request was denied by the board.

The head of the Capitol Police officers’ union, Gus Papathanasiou, said Inspector Thomas Loyd was the one who initially ordered the Capitol lockdown and that Pittman’s order came later.

“Acting Chief Pittman stated that she ordered the lockdown,” Papathanasiou said in a statement. “To be clear, it was actually Inspector Loyd who initially ordered the Capitol lockdown approximately 1 hour prior to Chief Pittman’s order. That was the only time that day I heard Acting Chief Pittman on the radio.”

In her statement, Pittman didn’t mention Loyd’s action, an omission that angered rank-and-file officers. The union has called for Pittman and Assistant Chief Chad Thomas to resign and supports Loyd to be promoted to chief.

With the resignations of House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving and Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger, J. Brett Blanton is the only remaining member of the three-person Capitol Police Board who was in place before the invasion of the Capitol.

On Tuesday, Blanton said in a statement that Pittman’s testimony was wrong, stating that Sund did not reach out with a request for an emergency declaration or for National Guard support and that he has no record of an emergency declaration request by Sund to the Capitol Police Board.

“In addition, there was no Board meeting as indicated by the Acting Chief,” Blanton said. “While USCP leadership may have met with or spoken to other security colleagues, no such conversations were held with AOC employees involved in Board matters. Furthermore, the AOC is not aware of any USCP requests (verbal or written) being submitted to the Board requesting additional support prior to January 6, 2021.”

Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton has disputed testimony by the Capitol Police chief regarding the events of Jan. 6. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Capitol Police and other police departments have been devastated in many ways by the violent riot on Jan. 6. Five people died on that day, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. Another Capitol Police officer, Howard Liebengood, died by suicide days later, and The Washington Post reported a Metropolitan Police Department officer who responded to the riot also died by suicide.

“The officers are angry, and I don’t blame them. The entire executive team failed us, and they must be held accountable,” Papathanasiou said. “Their inaction cost lives.”

Close to 140 officers between the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department have been injured, according to Papathanasiou.

“I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack who have sustained brain injuries. One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs,” he said. “One officer is going to lose his eye, and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake.”

Eva Malecki, a department spokesperson, did not respond to a request for comment.

Dozens of officers have also been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the riot: As of Jan. 22, 38 Capitol Police officers had tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a senior House aide.

Chris Cioffi contributed to this report.

An earlier version of this report misspelled the name of Thomas Loyd.