Two Capitol Police officers sue Trump for physical and emotional injuries suffered in Jan. 6 riot

SOURCE: The Washington Post

AUTHOR: Andrea Salcedo

Two Capitol Police officers who battled the mob of Donald Trump supporters that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 are suing the former president for the physical and emotional injuries they say they suffered in the attacks.

In a federal suit filed Tuesday in D.C., Officers James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby allege that for months, Trump rallied the insurrectionists with baseless election fraud claims that eventually culminated in the breach of the Capitol that left five dead, including a Capitol Police officer. About 140 D.C. and Capitol Police officers were injured, according to the police union, and two officers who had been on duty at the Capitol that day later died by suicide.

“Both United States Capitol Police Officers reported for duty on January 6, 2021, without any suspicion that they would soon become the targets of Trump’s followers,” according to the suit.

The lawsuit is the first brought by Capitol Police officers against Trump.

Blassingame, a 17-year veteran, and Hemby, who has been on the force 11 years, allege that Trump was directly responsible for inciting a mob of supporters gathered at his “Stop the Steal” rally outside the White House. Encouraged by Trump’s orders to march to the Capitol, the lawsuit says, the mob attacked officers and destroyed federal property as lawmakers met to certify Joe Biden as president.

The officers are each seeking compensatory damages of at least $75,000 and an undisclosed amount in punitive damages from Trump.

“The insurrectionist mob, which Trump had inflamed, encouraged, incited, directed, and aided and abetted, forced its way over and past the plaintiffs and their fellow officers, pursuing and attacking them inside and outside the United States Capitol, and causing the injuries,” the suit states.

Jason Miller, a spokesman for Trump, did not immediately respond to a message from The Washington Post late Tuesday.

When asked to comment on the lawsuit, Capitol police said in a statement that the officers “are acting individually from the Department.”

Blassingame, a 39-year-old former Marine who lives in Maryland, serves as a training and recruitment programs manager for the Capitol Police, according to his Facebook page. Hemby, 36, is also a Maryland resident.

Blassingame and Hemby aren’t the only officers who responded to the scene at the Capitol that day who have reported suffering physical injuries. At least 81 Capitol Police officers were assaulted on Jan. 6, according to filings by federal prosecutors, The Post’s Tom Jackman reported. About 65 D.C. police officers also suffered injuries during the Capitol siege, including several concussions from head blows from various objects, including metal poles ripped from inauguration scaffolding, police officials said.

Patrick A. Malone, an attorney representing both officers, told The Post that he expects other officers who reported sustaining injuries that day to move forward with litigation.

“Everyone proceeds at their own pace and because of the terrible and unique nature of their injuries, it will take some time for them to become comfortable with talking about what happened in a court of law,” Malone said in an email.

That morning, Blassingame reported to work at 5:30 a.m., the suit states. He was ordered to staff the steps of Neptune Plaza, across the street from the East Front of the Capitol, Blassingame said.

By 7 a.m., he noticed a large crowd massing at the plaza and told a colleague, “This isn’t going to be what they think it’s going to be.”

Hemby was told to stand in front of the Rotunda steps on the East Front of the Capitol, the suit states.

As both officers remained at their posts, thousands of protesters gathered south of the White House for the “Stop the Steal” rally, where, around noon, Trump took the stage and for a little over an hour, the suit states, repeated his false claims that the election was “rigged” and “stolen” before urging his supporters to “fight like hell” and telling them “we’re going to the Capitol.”

Blassingame and Hemby watched as the crowd grew by the hour. Hemby remained at his post blocking the Capitol steps until a wave of people dressed in Trump and Make America Great Again gear and carrying large Trump flags breached barriers around 2 p.m., the suit states.

The crowd, which was aggressive and outnumbered the officers, then chased Hemby and his colleagues to the top of the stairs and forced them against the door, the suit states. Hemby attempted to hold the insurrectionists back but they crushed him against the door, he said.

“Officer Hemby was attacked relentlessly,” the suit states. “He was bleeding from a cut located less than an inch from his eye. He had cuts and abrasions on his face and hands and his body was pinned against a large metal door, fending off attacks.”

The mob, which yelled “fight for Trump” and “stop the steal,” struck him with their fists and whatever they had at hand, Hemby said. They also threw objects at him and sprayed him with chemicals that irritated his eyes, skin and throat.

Eventually, the mob managed to break into the Capitol through the east doors, but Hemby stayed put at the top of the steps and stood his ground, the suit states.

Meanwhile, Blassingame, who had been ordered to move from his original post and was already inside the Capitol, was corralled on the first floor by “enraged” and “inflamed” insurrectionists who chanted “It’s our right!” and “Our house!” according to the suit. The mob threw items at Blassingame and the other officers and struck them with their fists and weapons, including flagpoles and stanchions.

“The threats and attacks on Officer Blassingame seemed endless,” the suit states.

Then, a surge of insurrectionists pushed forward and slammed Blassingame against a stone column, he said. He struck his spine and the back of his head and was unable to move.

Blassingame, who is Black, said he lost count of how many times the crowd yelled the n-word in his face. He eventually managed to free himself from the column and headed to the office of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) to help lawmakers evacuate, and then remained in lockdown with members of Congress until about 7:30 p.m.

“It was not clear to him on January 6 that he would survive to make it home,” the suit states.

Blassingame eventually made it home at midnight, he said. He suffered injuries to his head and back after he was repeatedly struck by insurrectionists on “what felt like every part of his body.” The next months were marked by depression and a sense of guilt for not being able to help his other colleagues, and for surviving an attack that other officers did not, he said.

Hemby remained at the east end of the Capitol until the complex was cleared of insurrectionists. He couldn’t seek medical attention until after 9 p.m., he said. He suffered injuries to his left hand, left knee, back and neck, he said. He is still receiving physical therapy two to three times a week for his neck and back. As with Blassingame, the emotional trauma of the attack has also disrupted his sleep and his usual calm demeanor, he said.