A Capitol Police officer is being hailed as a hero amid increasing evidence that he single-handedly steered an angry mob away from the Senate chambers during Wednesday’s riot at the U.S. Capitol by a group of President Donald Trump supporters. Video of the officer had gone viral on Wednesday, but CNN’s Kristin Wilson identified the officer on Sunday as Eugene Goodman while it suddenly became clear that there was more to what on its face looked like just another terrifying video of the angry mob that stormed the Capitol.
The video shot by Igor Bobic, a politics reporter at HuffPost, shows how Goodman, who was by himself and only had a baton for protection, dealt with an angry mob. After going up some stairs, the officer put himself between the lead rioter, a man wearing a black QAnon shirt, and the hallway leading to the Senate chambers. Apparently realizing it was wide open, the officer then shoved the man wearing the QAnon shirt, a move apparently designed to lure the rioters to the left rather than the right and away from what was an open doorway that would have led them straight to the Senate chambers. The sequence of events became clear in a revealing tick-tock of events published by the Washington Post that detailed how the riots on Wednesday could have been a lot more deadly. The officer was struggling to hold the mob back just as other officers were running around trying to lock more than a dozen doors. The Post explains why the way the officer went was so key:
Had the rioters turned right, they would have been a few feet away from the main entrance into the chamber. On the other side of that door, had they made their way into the Senate, were at least a half-dozen armed officers, including one with a semiautomatic weapon in the middle of the floor scanning each entrance for intruders.
Instead, the group—all White men—followed the Black officer in the other direction and met a group of police in a back corridor outside the Senate.
Those seconds seem to have made all the difference, as a reporter inside the chamber noted that mere seconds earlier the Senate had been sealed. Even Bobic didn’t fully comprehend the importance of the sequence he captured on video until the Post story was published. “Just now realizing how much of a close call it was in the Senate,” he wrote Saturday. “Literally seconds.” He then posted another screengrab of the video that shows how the lead rioter for a second appears to consider going the opposite direction before he chooses to follow the officer. Many were quick to praise Goodman. “Now it seems clear that this officer tricked the mob away from the unguarded door to the Senate, using himself—a Black man—as the bait,” wrote ProPublica’s Pamela Colloff.* “He is a national hero.”
Goodman wasn’t the only one receiving praise for his actions Wednesday. Several Capitol Police officers found themselves having to deal with a situation they were unprepared for, as they faced off against rioters who seemed determined to cause harm. BuzzFeed News talked to two Black officers who described just how chaotic and dangerous the events of Wednesday were and how their superiors had not prepared them for what could happen that day. And on top of fighting off an angry mob, the officers often had to do it while also enduring racist abuse as they were repeatedly called the N-word. “That was a heavily trained group of militia terrorists that attacked us,” one of the officers said. “They had radios, we found them, they had two-way communicators and earpieces. They had bear spray. They had flash bangs. … They were prepared.”
Correction, Jan. 11, 2021: This post originally misspelled Pamela Colloff’s first name.