Caroline Edwards, a US Capitol Police officer assigned to the first responder unit on January 6, 2021, testified Thursday night about the attacks she endured during the insurrection.
Edwards told the House January 6 committee during its prime-time hearing that she had hit her head during a clash with the insurrectionists and had been knocked unconscious that day, but that “adrenaline kicked in” and she ran back into the mayhem when she regained consciousness. She also detailed being sprayed in the eyes and teargassed.
“I can just remember my breath catching in my throat because what I saw was just a war scene. It was something like I had seen out of the movies,” said Edwards, who the House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack said was the first law enforcement officer injured by the rioters.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes: There were officers on the ground. They were bleeding. They were throwing up. I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood. I was catching people as they fell. It was carnage. It was chaos. I can’t even describe what I saw. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that as a police officer, as a law enforcement officer, I would find myself in the middle of a battle,” she recalled.
Edwards told the committee there were “hours of hand-to-hand combat” and that there were “hours of dealing with things that were way beyond what any law enforcement officer has ever trained for.”
She described taking pride in her job to “protect America’s symbol of democracy” – and the vicious public scrutiny she had endured after she suffered a traumatic brain injury during the attack.
“I was called a lot of things on January 6, 2021, and the days thereafter,” she said “I was called Nancy Pelosi’s dog, called incompetent, called a hero and a villain. I was called a traitor to my country, my home and my Constitution. In actuality, I was none of those things.”
“I was an American standing face-to-face with other Americans asking myself how many time – many, many times – how we had gotten here. I had been called names before, but never had my patriotism or duty been called into question,” she added.
Referring to herself as “the proud granddaughter” of a Marine veteran who had fought in the Korean War, Edwards said: “I am a proud American, and I will gladly sacrifice everything to make sure that the America my grandfather defended is here for many years to come.”
Committee Chair Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, thanked Edwards for her service after her testimony, saying, “Your heroism in the face of danger is admirable and your willingness to serve despite your injuries should be an inspiration to all of us.”
The union representing rank-and-file US Capitol Police officers on Thursday commended Edwards for her testimony and called for accountability for high-ranking Capitol Police officials who remained in their jobs after the riot.
The officers who were on duty on January 6, the union said, “paid a terrible price, and some of those injuries are so severe the officers will never return to duty and will live with lingering pain for the rest of their lives.”
“We need accountability, starting with our own leaders,” the union said in a statement. “Make no mistake, the breach of the U.S. Capitol was a failure of our leadership, as outlined in the Senate report earlier this year. It’s unconscionable that Officer Edwards was on the West front of the Capitol with no universal fence, no riot gear and too few officers to back her up. She could have been killed.”
CNN’s Whitney Wild and Clare Floran contributed to this report.