During the debut hearing of a hearing to investigate the Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, police officers who protected Congress that day offered brutal testimony about being besieged by what the officers described as a band of terrorists.
In the middle of those accounts on Tuesday, federal prosecutors announced new charges against one of the more than 165 accused of assaulting or resisting law enforcement on that day.
Samuel Lazar, a 35-year-old Pennsylvania man dubbed #FacePaintBlowhard by online sleuths commenting on his paramilitary gear, allegedly doused officers with chemical spray on Jan. 6th.
“They maced us, those tyrannical pieces of shit, and we maced them right the fuck back and now they’re taking the building,” Lazar is quoted saying in a video cited in an FBI affidavit.
Seen clad in a camouflaged tactical vest, black hooded sweatshirt, and blue jeans, Lazar had a patch over his chest with the words: “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle,” according to the complaint.
Lazar allegedly referred to that patch in his video rant.
“They attacked the people. We have a right to defend ourselves. Fuck the tyrants. There’s a time for peace and there’s a time for war,” Lazar said while pointing at the patch, according to an FBI affidavit.
As first noted by the HuffPost, Lazar was photographed “at least half a dozen times” with far-right Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R), who has consistently supported former President Donald Trump’s efforts to discredit and overturn Joe Biden’s presidential victory. Mastriano has backed a so-called “audit” of the election results, despite the failure of every lawsuit challenging comfortable 80,555-vote victory in the Keystone State.
In late November, Mastriano tried to replace the electors Biden won through the ballot via legislative fiat, a failed effort widely denounced as an “anti-democratic” gambit.
HuffPost reported that Lazar had been on the FBI’s wanted list when he posed with Mastriano in May, during a GOP event headlined by Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
The FBI cites police body camera footage throughout an affidavit accompanying Lazar’s charges.
In the footage, Lazar allegedly could be seen walking along the police line, grabbing a bike rack and pulling it with his left hand to try to remove it. That is when Lazar sprayed the chemical irritant from a canister in his right hand, authorities say.
“As shown on Officer-1’s body worn camera, Lazar was told to ‘get back’ and police deployed a chemical irritant causing Lazar to retreat down the steps,” the affidavit states. “Lazar then turned to face Officer-1 and redeployed his chemical irritant toward Officer-1 and a U.S. Capitol Police Officer (‘Officer-2’) a second time, causing Officer-2 to lose the ability to see.”
Prosecutors claim Lazar boasted about his conduct on Jan. 6th.
“I was right at the front, on the tip of the spear, brother,” Lazar said in the video, according to court papers. “That’s where you gotta be.”
Testimony by assaulted police officers dominated the debut hearing of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, featuring four law enforcement witnesses.
U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, a Black man who described being called the N-word a dozen times, answered a question he recalled asking on that day: “Is this America?”
“Frankly, I guess it is America,” Dunn said. “It shouldn’t be, but I guess that’s the way that things are. I don’t condone it. I don’t like it.”
Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone declared bluntly, “They tortured me. They beat me,” as he narrated getting shocked with a Taser and pummeled until he shouted out: “I’ve got kids.”
He said the plea for sympathy briefly worked.
“Fortunately, a few did step in and intervened on my behalf,” he said, though he added that body camera footage indicated that he was knocked unconscious for about four minutes.
During the statement of Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges—the man seen crushed and writhing in pain in the Capitol doors—used the word “terrorists” some 15 times to describe the mob that assaulted him and allegedly tried to gouge out his eye. He told lawmakers that officers exercised restraint partly because they knew explosives had been found on the scene and did not know how many of the thousands of Trump supporters arrived armed.
“If that turned into a firefight, we would have lost, and this was a fight we couldn’t afford to lose,” Hodges said.
Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, telling Congress about the xenophobia he experienced from the pro-Trump mob as a Dominican immigrant, wiped away tears as he recounted his wife and relatives “frantically calling and texting” him on that day.
Gonell was not the only speaker who got emotional.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) could barely finished his sentence as he told the panel of officers: “Thank you for holding the line.”
In a poignant bipartisan moment, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) also fought back tears and told his Republican colleague: “It must be an ‘Adam’ thing.”
(Photo from the FBI affidavit; videos from the committee live feed.)
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