Former US Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said he wanted to give police “the benefit of the doubt” and hoped they tried to defuse Wednesday’s events when they appeared to let the rioters pro-Trump enter the legislative building.
“Sometimes when you don’t have enough staff you can’t fight a big crowd like that,” he said on NBC’s “Today” show Thursday, noting that he didn’t there was not enough law enforcement there.
A ceremony on Capitol Hill claiming President-elect Joe Biden won the November election was abruptly halted on Wednesday afternoon after hundreds of rioters broke inside.
Members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence had to seek refuge. A woman was shot dead by police during the chaos and three others died in “medical emergencies,” according to Washington Police Chief Robert Contee.
Amid the riot, videos of police appearing to let protesters enter the building surfaced. One image appeared to show a man taking a selfie with an officer.
Gainer, who served as Capitol Police chief from 2002 to 2006 and Senate sergeant-at-arms, said the police handling of the situation was “a failure” and “raised a lot of questions.”
“There are clearly failures,” he said. “There must be a lot of questions asked and answers given. What is very clear is that the police underestimated the violent crowd and its size, and overestimated their ability to control it.”
Bill Bratton, former New York Police Department commissioner and NBC News analyst, said there had to be an explanation of why the crowd was let in.
Many law enforcement officials across the country wondered how police failed to protect the building.
Gainer said on “Today” that he always thought it would be impossible to storm the Capitol. The last major breach of the Capitol occurred during the War of 1812.
Capitol Police did not comment publicly on the riot and did not return a request for comment on Thursday.
Photos of the chaos showed lawmakers praying as rioters raged inside the building, many carrying pro-Trump banners and some waving Confederate flags. A photo has surfaced of a noose hanging on the west side of the Capitol.
Windows inside the building were smashed and doors knocked down. Some of the rioters were pictured sitting in the Senate Chamber and in the private offices of members of Congress.
The National Guard, the FBI and the US Marshals Service have all been called in to help.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser has ordered a 12-hour curfew in the city that ended at 6 a.m. Thursday.