Officer Harry Dunn came face to face with members of the far-right Oath Keepers on January 6, 2021, as police desperately worked to rescue Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s aides locked inside her office suite as rioters swept the Capitol.
On Monday, the seditious conspiracy trial against Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and four of his friends centered on Dunn’s heated confrontation with several members of the organization.
Some of the Oath Keepers who were there at the time of the incident have claimed that they tried to help the outnumbered police officer by offering to shield Dunn from the crowd. Nonetheless, Dunn said on Monday that he did not remember any such offers of assistance from the organization.
They attempted to get around me. Which is why I intervened and put a stop to it. Of course not. I did,” Dunn said angrily when questioned by a counsel for the Oath Keepers.
The fifth week of the trial, the most difficult and important development since the assault on the Capitol on January 6, began with Dunn’s confrontation with members of the Oath Keepers, notably Florida leaders Kelly Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson. This comes at a time when Pelosi is dealing with the fallout of the San Francisco house invasion that left her husband, Paul, badly wounded and spurred a fresh national discussion about politically motivated violence.
There were unsettling parallels between the Jan. 6 Capitol breach and the assault on Pelosi’s house, particularly in the claimed attacker’s shout of “Where’s Nancy?” and his advocacy of election conspiracy theories.
Members of Oath Keepers have been painted by prosecutors as being obsessed with finding Nancy Pelosi and former Vice President Mike Pence as part of a vast plot to stop the handoff of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. The Oath Keepers’ march across the Capitol, with some members heading to the Senate and others to the House, has been reconstructed by Justice Department prosecutors using recent testimony.
Dunn guided the prosecutors through his interaction with mobsters Meggs, Harrelson, and others in a video presented in court. I’m not letting you come this way,” Dunn recalled adding.
We’ve lost a significant number of police. They have stretchers ready to carry us out. The way you guys are acting is really screwing us out,” he said.
Experiencing intense questioning from the defense, Dunn was forced to consider the possibility that his memory was flawed due to the stress he was under. Dunn, a tall and intimidating man, acknowledged that he was under pressure, what with having to go from one place to another while clad in heavy body armor and toting an M4. After assisting in the defense of a stairway leading to the Lower West Terrace, the scene of the day’s most intense and lengthy combat, he eventually found himself outside the speaker’s office.
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Witness David Lazarus, an officer who helped lead a frantic attempt to clear a passage for the safe evacuation of Pelosi’s aides, some of whom had barricaded themselves in a conference room in her adjoining apartment, said that he saw Dunn’s “antagonistic” interaction with the Oath Keepers.
My focus is narrowed to a single point. Lazarus remarked, “I just want to go inside the office,” as he made his way toward Pelosi’s suite, but then he saw Dunn arguing with the throng.
As Lazarus explained it, before he came to assist liberate Pelosi’s employees from the locked area, he had been emailing and chatting with them to reassure them that it was him. He was worried that the House and Senate chambers, as well as the rotunda, on the second floor of the Capitol were too congested for a safe evacuation path to be established. As a result, he claims to have sent his team to a more secure conference room on the third floor and instructed them to keep the doors locked until he returned.