US Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell recounted being crushed by rioters on Jan. 6 and implored lawmakers to investigate the insurrection.
"It is imperative that the events of Jan. 6 are fully investigated in the Congress and the American people know the truth of what actually occurred and that all of those responsible are held accountable, particularly to ensure the horrific and shameful event in our history never repeats itself," Gonell said during the House select committee's first hearing.
Gonell said that while growing up in the Dominican Republic, he looked up to the US as the "land of opportunity and a place to better myself." He said that from the moment he landed in the US in 1992, he "tried to pursue that goal."
"I was the first in my family to graduate college, join the Army and become a police officer. On July 23, 1999, the day before my 21st birthday, I raised my hand and swore to protect the Constitution of the United States. Because this country gave me an opportunity to become anything that I wanted," he said.
Gonell, an Iraq War veteran, said that on Jan. 6, "I was more afraid to work at the Capitol than in my entire deployment to Iraq. In Iraq, we were in a war zone. But nothing in my experience in the army or as a law enforcement officer prepared me for what we confronted on Jan. 6."
He described the struggle to defend the Capitol building on Jan. 6, saying rioters had chemical sprays, knives, tactical gear and police shields taken from officers. They were saying "Trump sent us. Pick the right side," he said.
"To be honest, I do not recognize my fellow citizens who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 or the United States that they claim to represent," Gonell said.
Gonell said he and other officers were punched, cursed at, threatened and crushed by the rioters.
"I fell on top of some police shields on the ground that were slippery because [of] the pepper spray and bear spray. Rioters immediately began to pull me by my leg, by my shield, by my gear strap on my left shoulder. My survival instincts kicked in and I started kicking and punching as I tried to get the officer's attention behind me. They could not help me because they also were being attacked. I finally was able to hit the rioter who was grabbing me with my baton and was able to stand. Then I continued to fend off new attackers as they kept rotating in, attacking us again and again. What we were subjected that day was like something from a medieval battle," he said.
"I can remember losing oxygen and thinking to myself 'this is how I'm going to die, defending this entrance,'" he said.
Gonell became visibly emotional during his statement.
When he got home at nearly 4 a.m. on Jan. 7, he said he could not hug his wife because of all the chemicals on his uniform. He was back to work later that morning, and he worked for 15 consecutive days to continue defending the Capitol. He said he continues to recover from injuries, six months later.
"We are not asking for medals, recognition; we simply want justice and accountability. For most people, Jan. 6 happened for a few hours. But for those of us who were in the thick of it, it has not ended. That day continues to be a constant trauma for us literally every day," Gonell said.
Watch Sgt. Gonell's opening remarks: