Two Capitol Police officers sue Trump over January riot

Published Wed, Mar 31, 2021 · 10:51 PM

[WASHINGTON] Two Capitol Police officers who were on duty during the deadly Jan 6 riot at the US Capitol sued former President Donald Trump on Tuesday, saying he was responsible for the physical and emotional injuries they had suffered as a result of the day's events.

Supporters of Mr Trump overran the Capitol as Congress was certifying Joe Biden's victory over Mr Trump in the November presidential election. Before the incursion, Mr Trump spoke at a nearby rally, where he urged his supporters to "show strength" and "fight like hell."

Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died in the mayhem. Mr Trump was later impeached by the House of Representatives on a single charge of "incitement of insurrection," but was acquitted in February after a brief Senate trial in which few Republicans broke ranks to vote guilty.

The Capitol Police officers who sued Mr Trump, James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby, filed their complaint in US District Court in the District of Columbia, and are each seeking compensatory damages in excess of US$75,000, plus punitive damages.

The lawsuit is the first to be brought against the former president by Capitol Police officers. The force has more than 2,000 officers.

Lawyers for the officers and for Mr Trump could not be reached for comment early Wednesday. Mr Trump has previously denied responsibility for the attack.

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The complaint said the "insurrectionist mob" that stormed the Capitol was "spurred on by Mr Trump's conduct over many months in getting his followers to believe" his false assertions of widespread electoral fraud in November. The complaint also said that Mr Trump's supporters believed swarming the Capitol was their last chance to stop Mr Trump from being unfairly forced out of the White House.

Mr Trump "inflamed, encouraged, incited, directed, and aided and abetted" the mob that overran the building and attacked police personnel inside, the complaint said. It cited Mr Trump's Jan 6 speech and other conduct, including what it said was his failure that day to "take timely action to stop his followers from continued violence."

During the attack, Hemby, an 11-year veteran of the Capitol Police, was outside the building, crushed against the side and sprayed with chemicals that burned his eyes, skin and throat, the complaint said. One member of the mob screamed that he was "disrespecting the badge." Mr Hemby remains in physical therapy for neck and back injuries that he sustained on Jan 6 and "has struggled to manage the emotional fallout from being relentlessly attacked," according to the complaint.

Mr Blassingame, a 17-year veteran of the force, suffered head and back injuries during the riot, the complaint said, and experienced back pain, depression and insomnia afterward.

"He is haunted by the memory of being attacked, and of the sensory impacts - the sights, sounds, smells and even tastes of the attack remain close to the surface," the complaint said. "He experiences guilt of being unable to help his colleagues who were simultaneously being attacked." The Capitol and Metropolitan Police departments have said that a total of at least 138 of their officers were injured during the riot. The injuries ranged from minor bruises to concussions, rib fractures, burns and even a mild heart attack.

NYTimes

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