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Former US Capitol Police Commander Reveals Failures In January 6 Evacuation Response


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Former US Capitol Police Commander Reveals Failures In January 6 Evacuation Response

Authored by Joseph M. Hanneman via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A top U.S. Capitol Police commander - recently retired Assistant Chief Yogananda Pittman - failed to respond to repeated urgent radio calls to evacuate the U.S. Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, causing the loss of precious time that might have prevented the shooting death of protester Ashli Babbitt, a former USCP commander said.

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump protest inside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2021. (Brent Stirton/Getty Images)

The delay caused by the radio silence from the Capitol Police Command Center was so urgent that the 22-year veteran lieutenant located near the U.S. Senate chamber forged ahead with the evacuation anyway. He said he feared lawmakers would be injured or killed if he didn’t lead them to safety before the chamber doors were breached by protesters.

In a series of exclusive interviews with The Epoch Times, former Lt. Tarik K. Johnson, 47, detailed allegations that Pittman failed to respond to multiple urgent calls for help.

I begged for help all day on Jan. 6, 2021, and I feel I was largely ignored,” Johnson told The Epoch Times. “I beg again on Jan. 6, 2023—exactly two years later—for the proper investigative entities to uncover what really occurred on J6 and I pray that the country hears my cry.”

Johnson said the crucial delay in the evacuations should never have happened.

“There was no response from anybody at the Command Center,” Johnson said. “I say even before I initiated evacuation, I say specifically, ‘We’ve got to start thinking about getting the people out before we don’t have a chance to.’ I heard no response. Then I asked for permission to evacuate. I heard no response.”

Pittman, 49, who will begin a new job as chief of police at the University of California-Berkeley on Feb. 1, did not reply to messages seeking comment. She announced her retirement from USCP in November 2022.

The USCP Command Center, located on the seventh floor of the headquarters building on D Street in Washington, is a 40-by-30-foot room staffed by Capitol Police and officials from partner agencies, including the DC Metropolitan Police Department, the FBI, U.S. Park Police, and others.

In his new book, “Courage Under Fire,” published on Jan. 3, former USCP Chief Steven Sund, 57, said an area of the Command Center nicknamed “the pit” is used for monitoring “all the camera systems, radios, alarms, and a computer-aided dispatch terminal to monitor USCP and MPD calls for service.”

Founded by an act of Congress in 1828, the U.S. Capitol Police has more than 1,800 sworn officers, more than 500 civilian employees, and an annual budget of $602.5 million.

According to the book, Sund was in the Command Center the afternoon of Jan. 6, but was occupied making dozens of calls to the House and Senate sergeants at arms and the Pentagon, trying to get National Guard troops sent to the Capitol. He also made and took numerous calls to arrange for mutual aid from surrounding police agencies, the book said.

There is no indication in the book that Sund was aware of the unanswered calls for help. Johnson does not fault him for the troubles. Sund did describe watching some of the Capitol violence unfold from the Command Center.

“As I sit in my Command Center watching the video screens,” Sund wrote, “my frustration at the repeated delays from the sergeants at arms, along with my concern for my officers’ safety, is redlining. To be more precise, I am [expletive] livid.”

Johnson became known to much of America as the Capitol Police lieutenant who wore a bright red Make America Great Again ball cap when he worked with a pair of Oath Keepers to rescue 16 USCP officers trapped in the foyer inside the massive Columbus Doors.

Johnson was suspended by USCP and later accused of rules violations, including conduct unbecoming, for wearing the Trump hat and working with the Oath Keepers on the officer rescue. He said he believes those charges were actually brought because the evacuations and other split-second leadership decisions he made embarrassed Pittman.

U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Tarik Khalid Johnson asks Oath Keepers Steve (center) and Michael Nichols for help rescuing police officers trapped inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Rico La Starza/Special to The Epoch Times)

After about 17 months of suspension, Johnson got his job back, but chose to resign. Johnson said wearing the MAGA cap made the crowds more receptive to him, provided a level of safety that he likened to a tactical helmet, and served as a de-escalation tool.

Johnson had been with USCP for 22 years at the time of the Jan. 6 events, serving as a police officer, dignitary special agent, sergeant, and lieutenant. For two years prior to his USCP service, he worked for the Senate Sergeant at Arms.

One of the Oath Keepers, retired New York police Sgt. Michael Nichols, said Johnson’s actions during the officer rescue were heroic.

“He adapted to the environment, put the officers’ and people’s safety before his own, and succeeded in defusing a tense situation that could have resulted in a mass-casualty incident,” Nichols said.

Johnson’s actions throughout the day on Jan. 6 reminded Nichols of a character in the television miniseries “Band of Brothers.”

It’s not like he just helped these officers out, this man was like the lieutenant in Band of Brothers who just keeps running back and forth across the battlefield to get everyone in position and on task, with no regard for self—only for what needs to be done,” Nichols told The Epoch Times. “He really saw the big picture that day.”

Rico La Starza, who documented the rescue operation on video, agreed. “He’s the leader people pray for,” La Starza said. “Quick on the feet and willing to go through flames for his team.”

Radio Dispatch Recordings Confirm Events

Johnson’s assertions about the Senate and House evacuations were corroborated by USCP radio dispatch recordings and transcripts obtained by The Epoch Times.

The unanswered plea for authorization to evacuate was among at least four instances when Johnson or the USCP dispatcher asked in vain for help or direction from the Command Center, where Pittman sat at the center console near Chief Sund.

Babbitt was shot and killed by USCP Lt. Michael Byrd at 2:44 p.m. as she attempted to climb through a broken window pane leading into the Speaker’s Lobby. Shortly before that, Babbitt shouted at rioters who were vandalizing the doors and windows and chastised three Capitol Police officers for doing nothing to stop the violence.

Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman attends a press briefing about a security incident at the U.S. Capitol on April 2, 2021. Pittman announced that one police officer was dead after a man rammed his vehicle into a Capitol barricade. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Johnson said if the evacuation of Congress started when he first asked for help, Byrd would not have been near the Speaker’s Lobby entrance, and the House chamber would have been empty if the violent crowd had somehow breached the barricaded double doors.

“I made the evacuation order at approximately 2:28 for the Senate, and then I did it maybe six to eight minutes later for the House,” Johnson said.

[Byrd] should not have been put in that situation. Had the evacuation occurred earlier, Lt. Michael Byrd would not have been there and Ashli Babbitt would have met a vacated lobby.

Senate Evacuation

Audio from the main USCP radio channel provides dramatic testimony on the efforts to evacuate hundreds of lawmakers and staff.

At about 2:23 p.m., Johnson asked for authorization to have one of the Senate doors unlocked so he could get Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger into the chamber. Thomas Lloyd, USCP inspector, crackled across the radio, “Approved.”

Johnson shortly made his biggest and most urgent plea of the day.

“405J-John with a message. I want to advise that we evacuate the Senate floor before [we] won’t have a chance to,” Johnson said over the radio just after 2:25 p.m. “We have a clear directional sight to get out of the Senate door from the second floor. I need permission to go ahead and initiate that, copy.”

The dispatcher repeated Johnson’s plea. “…He has a clear sight to get everyone out,” the dispatcher said.

For a second time, the dispatcher relayed the request. “405J-John requesting to clear the Senate floor,” he said. “He has a clear path. Clear ahead a path to get everyone out.”

Police officers aim their weapons at the main door in the House chamber after protesters breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

There was no reply from the command staff on the ground or in the Command Center. Johnson said Pittman, then the No. 2 official at U.S. Capitol Police, was the person who should have made that call.

Johnson said his fear grew as the seconds and minutes ticked away.

“405J-John disregard,” Johnson broadcast. “I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway. I’ll take the 550 or 534. We’re evacuating now on the north side, send everybody out the Senate door, copy.”

The numbers 550 and 534 refer to officer disciplinary codes, Johnson said.

The dispatcher responded: “I copy that. Evacuations being executed at this time, 1429 hours [2:29 p.m.].”

The official USCP Jan. 6 timeline of events states that at 2:28 p.m., “remaining members evacuated from Senate floor.”

Dispatch acknowledged the evacuation order at 2:29 p.m. At 2:32 p.m., Deputy Chief Eric Waldow broadcast, “Senate floor is continued to be evacuated. I’m moving with the members now.”

The Senate was declared clear at 2:33 p.m.

House Evacuation

The House went into recess at 2:29 p.m. At about that time, a group of 75–100 protesters—including Babbitt—began filling up the hallway outside of the Speaker’s Lobby adjacent to the House chamber. Some members of the crowd turned violent and began rioting. Agitators smashed the glass in the doors with a helmet and flag poles.

After leading the senators through the subway tunnel to safety, Johnson turned his attention to the evacuation of the House, coordinating over the radio with Sgt. Nelson Vargas, 49.

Read more here...

Tyler Durden Wed, 01/11/2023 - 22:20


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