WASHINGTON — U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who fended off rioters during the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, said Monday that members of the Oath Keepers on trial did not help protect him that day, rebutting an argument that the defense sought to make.
Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and four other members of the right-wing militia group face a series of charges related to the Capitol riot, including a rare seditious conspiracy charge.
Most of Dunn’s testimony revolved around an image showing defendants Kelly Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson, plus two other individuals, standing in front of Dunn. Attorneys for the defendants suggested that the Oath Keepers were protecting Dunn, based on an interview Dunn gave to the FBI after the riot.
Dunn refuted their claim.
“This picture does not represent the statement that I made to the FBI about keeping people from going down the stairs,” said Dunn, who rose to prominence in the aftermath of the riot for giving harrowing testimony to the House committee investigating the events of that day.
In his statement to the FBI, which USA TODAY has not reviewed, Dunn told the jury that he was guarding a staircase in the Capitol Crypt, which led to a space where officers were being decontaminated. A group of individuals, whom described as Oath Keepers because of their tactical gear, offered to stand in front of him after he told them that officers were being harmed.
“We have dozens of officers down,” Dunn recalled saying to the protesters. “They’re taking us out on stretchers. Y’all are f—ing us up.”
Dunn said his run-in with the Oath Keepers on trial, depicted in the photo, was not the same as the encounter in the crypt. The image was taken outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office a floor above, Dunn said.
Attorneys for Meggs and Harrelson questioned Dunn over whether he might be misremembering a single event involving the Oath Keepers on trial as two events, suggesting that the trauma of the day could have affected his memory.
“Eyewitness testimony is inherently not always reliable, particularly around events of mass trauma, betrayal,” said Bradford Geyer, Harrelson’s attorney. “Is it impossible that your recollection could be impacted?”
But Dunn said several times that he recalled two separate events — and “at the Speakers office, nobody offered to assist me,” he said. He also said the individuals he encountered in the Crypt were not the same individuals shown in the photo.
The government attempted to show that Dunn was not familiar with the Oath Keepers until after the riot, explaining why he might assume individuals in tactical gear belonged to their group.
In a video taken Jan. 5, 2021 at a protest outside the Supreme Court that was shown to the jury Monday, Dunn is asked by a protester for the location of the “Oath Keepers command post.” Dunn said he did not know; once the individual left, he turned to a colleague and said “Oath Keepers? What the f— are the Oath Keepers?”
U.S. Capitol Police Special Agent David Lazarus, who also testified Monday, said that he ran past Dunn outside the Speaker’s office three or four times while attempting to get staffers out of the building. He said he never observed the Oath Keepers or other rioters offering assistance to Dunn or being anything other than “antagonistic.”
Dunn was deemed a hero in the aftermath of the 2021 attack after giving emotional testimony to the House Jan. 6 committee. The 14-year veteran of the U.S. Capitol Police force recalled facing off with rioters outside the Capitol who used a racial slur after learning he voted for Joe Biden.
“No one had ever called me a (N-word) while wearing my Capitol Police uniform,” Dunn testified in July 2021.
He also recalled breaking down in despair in the Capitol rotunda at one point, questioning how the attack came to be, he said. Since the attack, Dunn has said he’s sought mental health support to deal with trauma.
He and other officers who fended off the pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6 were a near-constant presence at each of the panel’s eight hearings this summer.
“We did our job that day,” Dunn said he told committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., after testifying last year. “Now it’s time to do yours.”
Prosecutors are in their fifth week of arguments in the Oath Keepers trial, behind the self-imposed schedule previously laid out by the government.
Rhodes was not in court last week after testing positive for COVID-19 in jail, waiving his right to be present for eight witnesses deemed “inconsequential” to the case against him by his attorneys. The Oath Keepers leader tested negative Sunday, attorney James Bright confirmed, and is in court Monday.
Contributing: Dylan Wells