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'I'll never forget' | Officers, staffers recount horrors of Jan. 6 ahead of Oath Keepers sentencings

The Justice Department has asked for militia leader Stewart Rhodes and a top lieutenant to spend decades in prison.

WASHINGTON — A DC Police officer who helped defend the U.S. Capitol said Wednesday he will never forget, or forgive, the effect seeing his bruised and bloodied body had on his family – and asked a judge to hold a group of Oath Keepers responsible for their role in the riot.

Officer Christopher Owens was one of five law enforcement witnesses who testified or provided written statements to the court ahead of the sentencings of militia founder Stewart Rhodes and eight other defendants convicted of a multitude of crimes in connection with the Jan. 6 riot. Owens, who teaches the DC Police Department’s academy, was one of hundreds of police officers who responded to the Capitol and was part of one of the first riot squads to enter the building.

“We were assaulted time and time again,” Owens said, noting that at one point a rioter tried to steal his gun. “We had bottles thrown at us. All this happened while people yelled, ‘We back the blue,’ and ‘We support you.’”

Owens testified at the first Oath Keepers trial last year about how he and other officers prevented a group of rioters, including Jessica Watkins, from proceeding further down a hallway toward the Senate Wing. Watkins took the stand during the trial and apologized to Owens while essentially admitting to a felony count of civil disorder for which she was later convicted.

The officer said he didn’t return home until nearly 7 a.m. the next morning, where his family was distraught at seeing him soaked in pepper spray and covered in blood and bruises.

“I’ll never forget how my wife burst into tears and sat down on the floor crying when she saw how bruised, battered and bloody my arms and legs were,” Owens said.

U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, another trial witness for the government, also spoke about how the riot has affected his family. Dunn testified before the January 6th Committee in July 2021 and has been outspoken about how Jan. 6 has affected the mental health of officers who responded to the Capitol.

At trial, several Oath Keepers defendants claimed the militia had been trying to help Dunn and other officers inside the building. Dunn rejected that claim in his testimony last October. Because of that and his visibility as an advocate for other officers, he said he’s had a target put on his back.

“Because I told the truth about what happened, I had to install security cameras on my house,” he said. “I live in constant fear for the safety of my daughter and my loved ones.”

In addition to Owens’ and Dunn’s statements, the court heard Wednesday from USCP Special Agent David Lazarus, who lamented his friends and colleagues who have not been able to return to work due to the trauma of Jan. 6, and two officers who provided written statements. The Justice Department also called two non-law enforcement witnesses to speak: former U.S. Senate chamber assistant Virginia Brown and Terri McCullough, who has served as chief of staff for former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) since 2019.

McCullough recalled an officer describing the Capitol as a “crime scene” and returning to the Speaker’s office suite to find a confederate flag and zip ties rioters had left behind. Brown, now 21, said she remembers kicking off her shoes to help her run faster as she and others fled through the Capitol tunnels once the building was breached.

Prosecutors have asked for the Oath Keepers defendants to be sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 to 25 years in prison – the latter for Rhodes, the group’s founder and leader. Rhodes was scheduled to be sentenced first Thursday morning, followed by Florida Oath Keepers state leader Kelly Meggs, who was convicted of seditious conspiracy along with Rhodes, that afternoon.  

We're tracking all of the arrests, charges and investigations into the January 6 assault on the Capitol. Sign up for our Capitol Breach Newsletter here so that you never miss an update.

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