The acting chief of Washington, DC’s Metropolitan Police Department was “stunned” by a lack of urgency in deploying the National Guard to quash the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol.
Testifying Tuesday before a Senate panel on the insurrection, Chief Robert Contee recalled a group phone call he had with now-former Capitol Police Chief Steve Sund, US Army leaders and Washington, DC officials as the unrest spiraled out of control.
“Chief Sund was pleading for the deployment of the National Guard,” said Contee. “And in response to that, there was not an immediate ‘Yes, the National Guard is responding. Yes, the National Guard is on the way. Yes, the National Guard are being re-staged from traffic posts to respond.”
Rather, Contee said, officials were more concerned about dotting i’s and crossing t’s as violent supporters of then-President Trump flooded the halls of Congress, sending lawmakers including Vice President Mike Pence fleeing in fear for their lives.
“The response was more asking about … the plan, the optics, how this looks with boots on the ground on the Capitol,” testified Contee, not specifying who provided that restrained response.
“I was just stunned,” said Contee. “I had officers that were out there literally fighting for their lives, and we’re kind of going through what seemed like an exercise to really check the boxes, and there was not an immediate response.”
Reinforcements did eventually arrive to help empty the Capitol and establish a secure perimeter — but not before five people died, including a Capitol Police officer beaten to death with a fire extinguisher.
Amid fierce criticism over a lack of law-enforcement preparedness, Sund resigned his post the day after the riot.
But Tuesday, he testified that he harbors regrets over the decision.
“I certainly do regret resigning,” he said. “I love this agency. I love the women and men of this agency. And I regret the day I left.”
He also appeared to shift responsibility, explaining that he never saw a pre-riot intelligence report sent to the agency by the FBI.
“It was received by … one of our sworn members that’s assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is a task force with the FBI,” said Sund. “They received it the evening of [January] the 5th, reviewed it and then forwarded over to an official and the Intelligence Division over at US Capitol Police headquarters.”
Asked to clarify if that meant he never saw the report, Sund said, “It did not go any further than that. … I don’t believe that went any farther than from over to the sergeant over at the Intelligence Division.”
Sund said that had he seen that information on Jan. 5 — as opposed to Monday, when he testified he first saw it — his department may have been better able to brace itself for the scope of the incoming unrest.
“I think that information would have been helpful to be aware of,” he said. “That’s something we need to look at: What’s the process and how do we streamline that information getting in to where it needs to go.”