Capitol police misled public about manpower on hand before riot, former lieutenant says

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Protesters confront police at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2020. (Video screenshot)
Protesters confront police at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2020. (Video screenshot)

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by The Daily Signal.]

By Fred Lucas
The Daily Signal

U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Tarik Johnson expected a relatively easy day when he arrived at work at 7 a.m. on Jan. 6, 2021.

Johnson, a 23-year veteran of the department, eventually found a completely unprepared police force and what he faults as poor leadership when rioters stormed the Capitol that afternoon in an apparent effort to stop certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over Donald Trump in the November election.

Johnson, now a former officer, said he would give Capitol Police leadership a grade of “an F or a zero” for preparedness and manpower.

One possible reason for the bad management was that “somebody wanted this to happen,” Johnson added. He called for further investigation, saying he gladly would provide information that a Democrat-dominated House select committee didn’t request.

Capitol Police not only were understaffed that day, he said, but the evacuation of lawmakers and staff was handled poorly.

“My assignment that day was routine operations commander of the Capitol …,” Johnson told Mike Howell, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project, in an on-camera interview on for publication in The Daily Signal. “That meant that I didn’t have to deal with any of the demonstrations. So that made me happy. So I figured it would be an easy day for me.”

The Daily Signal is the multimedia news organization of The Heritage Foundation.

Police supervisors didn’t convey a sense of being on alert, Johnson said.

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“It was pretty much a normal morning, nothing out of the ordinary. I didn’t get any morning briefings from my supervisors when I got there,” he said.

It wasn’t an easy day, of course. By that afternoon, rioters had breached the Capitol, some of them physically assaulting police officers. Johnson called his wife at home.

“I said, I don’t know if I’m gonna make it out of this,” he recalled telling her, adding that he loved her and their daughter. “And I said goodbye.”

Johnson, who says he voted for Biden in 2020 after voting for Trump in 2016, became known to some Americans because of video that showing him in uniform during the riot wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat. Johnson later said he did it to stay safe while confronting rioters. He resigned from Capitol Police amid scrutiny for that decision.

Johnson said he would like to see Congress investigate the preparedness and response of Capitol Police on that day.

“There was no real investigation done to actually examine the faults of leadership on that day,” Johnson said in the interview, in which he called for a full investigation so that Americans may know all the facts.

“If you don’t fully investigate it, you’re still going to have the wedge between the Left and the Right because at the end of the day, the Left and the Right, we have to come together to solve the problems of the United States,” he said.

If supervisors had acted on information they were given and requests made regarding evacuating lawmakers and staff, Johnson said, “Ashli Babbitt would be home right now with her family.”

Babbitt, an Air Force veteran, was the protester who was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer as she climbed through the smashed window of a barricaded door during the riot.

Specifically, Johnson said, Capitol Police lacked enough officers that day.

He said that “plus or minus 200 officers” were working the day shift when the riot began around 2 p.m. Capitol Police leaders have said 1,400 officers were on hand at the Capitol when the riot occurred.

“When they used that number of 1,400 people, they were using the number of everybody that showed up for work that day,” Johnson said in the interview, adding:

That was almost a misleading number, because they would’ve counted officers assigned to the library division, House division, patrol division, who would never even have came over to the Capitol. … I’m 99.9% sure they counted all the midnight officers on every single part of the Hill. They needed that number inflated as much as they could. So, they didn’t give an accurate depiction of the manpower we actually had on the Hill that day.

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by The Daily Signal.]


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