A group of key law enforcement figures involved in the response to the insurrection at the Capitol testified on Tuesday as the Senate Homeland Security and Rules committees held the first hearing about the lapses in security that led to the deadly rioting last month.
While each of them shared their personal perspectives about the law enforcement failures that contributed to the Capitol riots, Capitol Police Capt. Carneysha Mendoza‘s harrowing testimony recalling the horrors she experienced during the insurrection seemed to resonate heavily.
The U.S. military veteran and mother offered testimony beginning with the moment she was notified that she would need to report to work early to help respond to the riots to when she spent her birthday grieving with colleagues over the death of a fellow Capitol Police officer. In between those two bookends to the Capitol riots, Mendoza shared her experience entering the Capitol amid a sea of far-right extremists and being affected by their weapons of war.
Scheduled to work the night shift on Jan. 6, Mendoza testified that a fellow Capitol Police Captain called early in the afternoon to tell her “things were bad” and her assistance was required.
Mendoza testified that she was used to dealing with “white supremacists” like the ones she encountered on Jan. 6 because she had worked the so-called Million MAGA March in December. However, conditions on Jan. 6 were decidedly different from the Million MAGA March because it was indoors, where the “military grade CS gas” was being used by the rioters.
“Officers received a lot of gas exposure, which is a lot worse inside the building versus outside, because there’s nowhere for it to go,” Mendoza testified. “I received chemical burns to my face that still have not healed to this day.”
She continued: “I witnessed officers being knocked to the ground and hit with various objects that were thrown by rioters.”
Mendoza said by her estimations, the entire ordeal lasted for more than four hours.
She said she spent the early hours of her birthday on Jan. 8 in the hospital with the family of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died from the injuries he sustained during the attempted coup.
Mendoza suggested that even with more help from law enforcement, she was doubtful anything would have changed.
“Of the multitude of events I’ve worked in my nearly 19-year career on the Department, this was by far the worst of the worst,” Mendoza said. “We could have had 10 times the amount of people working with us and I still believe this battle would have been just as devastating.”
Mendoza ended her testimony on a somber yet optimistic note.
“As an American and an Army veteran, it’s sad to see us attacked by our fellow citizens,” Mendoza said before adding later: “Although things are still raw, and moving forward will be a difficult process, I look forward to healing and moving forward together as an agency and as a country.”
Se also made sure to recognize former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund’s “hard work and dedication,” undermining the narrative that placed a disproportionate amount of blame on him for the attempted coup.
Read Mendoza’s full testimony by clicking here.