April 1, 2021
Two U.S. Capitol Police officers who were on duty during the deadly January 6 insurrection at Capitol formally filed suit on March 30 in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia against former President Donald J. Trump—saying he was responsible for the physical and emotional injuries they had suffered as a result of the day’s events.
The plaintiffs, James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby, said in their filing that former President Donald J. Trump “inflamed, encouraged, incited, directed, and aided and abetted” the Capitol Riot, according to a report by The New York Times. The complaint also cited the former president’s January 6 speech and other conduct—including what it said was his failure that day to “take timely action to stop his followers from continued violence.”
Each of the plaintiffs is seeking compensatory damages in excess of $75,000, plus punitive damages. The lawsuit is the first to be brought against the former president by Capitol Police officers. The force has more than 2,000 officer, the Times notes.
Supporters of Trump overran the Capitol with an intention to stop the Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the November presidential election. Before the incursion, Trump spoke at a nearby rally, where he urged his supporters to “show strength” and “fight like hell.”
Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died in the mayhem. Trump was later impeached by the House of Representatives on a single charge of “incitement of insurrection,” but was acquitted in February after a brief Senate trial in which few Republicans broke ranks to vote guilty.
During the attack, Officer Hemby, an 11-year veteran of the Capitol Police, was outside the building,—crushed against the side and sprayed with chemicals that burned his eyes, skin and throat, the complaint said. One member of the mob screamed that he was “disrespecting the badge.”
Officer Hemby remains in physical therapy for neck and back injuries that he sustained on January 6 and “has struggled to manage the emotional fallout from being relentlessly attacked,” according to the complaint.
Officer Blassingame, a 17-year veteran of the force, suffered head and back injuries during the riot, the complaint said; and experienced back pain, depression. and insomnia afterward.
“He is haunted by the memory of being attacked, and of the sensory impacts—the sights, sounds, smells and even tastes of the attack remain close to the surface,” the complaint said. “He experiences guilt of being unable to help his colleagues who were simultaneously being attacked; and of surviving where other colleagues did not.”
Lawyers for the officers and for the former president could not be reached for comment early Wednesday, the Times said. Trump has previously denied responsibility for the attack.
The Capitol and Metropolitan Police departments have said that at least 138 of their officers were injured during the riot. The injuries ranged from minor bruises to concussions, rib fractures, burns, and even a mild heart attack.
Research contact: @nytimes