Officers honored with Congressional Gold Medals for actions on Jan. 6

Nearly two years after the Jan. 6 riot, law enforcement officers who defended the U.S. Capitol are being honored during a ceremony on Tuesday.

Congressional leaders are paying tribute to officers with the Capitol Police Department — as well as Washington, D.C.'s Metropolitan Police force — who risked their lives to protect the Capitol complex from violent protesters storming the building.

The attack happened while members of both congressional chambers were inside holding a joint session to count electoral college votes and ultimately certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. Five people, including one Capitol Police officer, died either during the riot or as a result of their injuries from the mayhem. Four more officers died by suicide in the days, weeks and months that followed.

Capitol Police officer Shae Cooney was among the first wave of officers to arrive on the West Front of the Capitol as the mob approached and attacked. Many of them were armed with weapons. She said not a day goes by when she does not recall the events that transpired on Jan. 6.

"Not only the size, but the way they were. You know, you can see the anger," Cooney said. "You can see the hostility. So a lot of us were just kind of shocked that something like this was actually happening."

Police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, are being presented with Congressional Gold Medals on Dec. 7, 2022. / Credit: Julio Cortez / AP
Police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, are being presented with Congressional Gold Medals on Dec. 7, 2022. / Credit: Julio Cortez / AP

Capitol Police Lt. Ted Hopkins first tried to stop the mob inside the Capitol visitor's center. Hopkins later raced to the U.S. House chamber after rioters sought to breach the door of the speaker's lobby.

"It's important to relate how bad it really was," Hopkins said. "From the verbal abuse, from the actual physical assaults, to the chemicals, impact weapons."

In the months after Jan. 6, Congress passed formal legislation to bestow medals to the police agencies present during the attack. A Congressional Gold Medal is the legislature's highest honor, making Tuesday's ceremony particularly special for officers, as well as their families.

Kathleen Dobe, the mother of a Capitol Police officer who responded to the riot and who is being recognized at the ceremony, remembered Jan. 6 as "the worst day" of her son's life in addition to her own. Dobe's son, who has served on the Capitol Police force for five years, still works for the agency but rarely speaks about Jan. 6, she said, noting that he likely carries trauma from the experience.

Dobe is attending the congressional ceremony on Tuesday, where, she said, she will be beaming with pride.

"You know, he's very ... he's very humble," she said of her son. "He doesn't like to be called a hero. But he's my hero."

The Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, and former President Donald Trump's role in the riot, have been the focus of an ongoing investigation by a House select committee that likely conducted its final interview at the end of November. At least 700 people were charged with federal crimes in connection with the attack.

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