One year later: Capitol Police officer recounts Capitol riots


WASHINGTON (WDVM) — Hundreds of officers were injured during the riots at the Capitol on Jan. 6, and many are still recovering from those injuries.

Sergeant Aquilino Gonell with the United States Capitol Police was assigned to work on the Civil Disturbance Unit that day, as he had been throughout the protests over the summer. But, he said, “You go to work, and you don’t think that something as bad as that day was going to happen, but it did happen.”

Jan. 6 is a day Sergeant Gonell describes as hell. Still, he said what he was fighting to protect was worth his ongoing physical and emotional pain. “I was fighting for preventing those people from coming into the building,” he said. “I got hurt on my right foot, left shoulder. I needed surgery on both and my hands.”

The officer suffered a dislocated toe on his right foot, a torn rotator cuff and labrum in his left shoulder, and some contusions on his hand. He said he was beat on for over two hours at the lower west entrance of the Capitol. “One person would hit you, assault you, and once that person gets tired, another person comes and takes their place to continue the beat down.”

Despite his injuries and getting home almost 24 hours after his shift on Jan. 6, Sergeant Gonell got up on Jan. 7 and went back to work. “On Jan. 7 when I woke up, I wasn’t thinking of myself. I wasn’t thinking about (my wife) in that sense, but I was thinking about her and my son in terms of their future. I saw their future being threatened.”

Sergeant Gonell said he did not go to the doctor until Jan. 8. At that time, the doctor tried to take him off duty to treat his injuries, and since he could still work and draw his weapon, he declined to be treated until after the Inauguration. “I seriously take the things that I heard about the American values when I was growing up when I came here to the United States. For me, that is very dear,” said Gonell.

As an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who served in the military and law enforcement for over 20 years, Sergeant Gonell wanted to make sure that Democracy was protected.

Looking toward the investigation into the events, he hopes those involved are held accountable. “If we don’t get this right, this might be a recurring issue every four years or every two years when there is an election,” said Gonell. “If it does happen again, I hope there is an Officer Gonell in their way blocking those people, or Officer Goodman, Sicknick and all the other officers who put their bodies (on the line) and sacrificed so much to defend the people who were inside.”

Sergeant Gonell is still working with a physical therapist to gain full range of motion in his left arm and shoulder and could need another surgery on his hands. Additionally, he is speaking to a therapist to work through PTSD from Jan. 6 and his time overseas.

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