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'I got spat at a couple of times' | Firefighters, paramedics recount experiences during Capitol Riot

Kevin Cole and Rocco Gabriele, both firefighter-paramedics, said they were working on cardiac patients while concussion grenades were going off overhead.

WASHINGTON — D.C. Fire & EMS battled concussion grenades, racial epithets and a hostile crowd of thousands of people to treat the dozens and dozens of injuries reported on the U.S. Capitol grounds on January 6, according to a new montage of testimonials released by the department Thursday.

In a 50-minute, documentary-style video produced by the department, more than a dozen firefighters, EMTs and paramedics recounted the response to the Capitol riot in January.

“The first indication of trouble, for me,” said Amy Mauro, the department’s chief of staff, “was looking up and seeing a live feed from Twitter of protestors fist fighting with Metropolitan Police Department officers on the West Terrace of the Capitol building. And at the same time this was happening, the fire operations center area command officials were getting reports of two cardiac arrests simultaneously on the Capitol grounds.”

Those cardiac arrest patients were located inside the massive crowd of people on the grounds – forcing medics to enter the chaos.

Kevin Cole and Rocco Gabriele, both firefighter-paramedics, said they were working on cardiac patients while concussion grenades were going off overhead.

“The scene got out of control,” Gabriel said. “It became pretty unsafe from that point. As we were exiting the scene, one of the protestors grabbed the [advanced life support] bag we were functioning out of and dumped all the contents out. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the medic unit there was nothing left in it to treat the patient.”

While MPD officers and Capitol Police have spoken publicly about the violence and vitriol they faced on January 6, this is the first time EMS employees have done so. But they were not spared from the same racial insults as Black officers, said Sergeant Alethea Brooks.

“I got spat at a couple of times. Got called the n-word quite a few,” Brooks, who is Black, said. “The guy tillering the ladder truck was told he was a ‘servant.’”

“There haven’t been that many times where I’ve been in fear of my actual life,” Brooks continued, “like somebody harming me physically, and I can’t respond. You always know that there’s going to be people that you have to help. Regardless, it doesn’t matter if you’re a murderer, it’s our job to help. But it makes it harder when you know that the people you’re helping are actually harming our brothers, our brothers in blue, and have no regard for me – [they] don’t care if you live or die.”

The video also contains testimonials from the EMS officers who responded deep inside the Capitol to the door of the Speaker’s Lobby, where rioter Ashli Babbitt was fatally shot. EMS Captain La’Kisha Lacey, who was part of the team that responded to the shooting, said the scene was “very, very, very chaotic.”

“The only time I ever felt a little bit cautious was when the woman who got shot… when we brought her to the ambulance, the crowd was quite angry and upset,” said Sgt. Timothy Bennett.

Lacey said ultimately the crowd did part to allow EMS access to Babbitt and exit from the building.

More than 600 people have now been federally charged in connection with the January 6 Capitol riot. Read more of WUSA9’s ongoing coverage of those cases here.

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