The head of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) told senators Tuesday that there was an initial "reluctance" to send the National Guard during the Jan. 6 rioting at the U.S. Capitol — a resistance that left him "surprised" and "stunned," given the gravity of the violent attack.
Testifying before a pair of Senate committees, acting Chief Robert Contee said that at 2:22 p.m. on Jan. 6 — more than an hour after his forces were summoned to the Capitol — he was part of an emergency phone call that included leaders of the Capitol Police, the National Guard and the Department of the Army.
"I was surprised at the reluctance to immediately send the National Guard to the Capitol grounds," Contee told senators on the Rules and Homeland Security committees.
Almost an hour would pass before the Pentagon would approve the deployment of more Guard troops to defuse the violent mob, and those troops would not arrive at the Capitol until 5:40 p.m. — more than four hours after Steven Sund, then the chief of the Capitol Police, had requested the federal reinforcements.
That long delay has become a central focus of Congress's investigation into the deadly assault, a probe that launched publicly with Tuesday's Senate hearing.
Contee said that at 2:30 p.m., within minutes of the emergency call with the Pentagon, his office had requested help from police departments as far away as New Jersey.
"From that point, it took another 3 1/2 hours until all rioters were removed from the Capitol," Contee said.
Other witnesses testifying before the Senate include Sund, former House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving and former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger, all of whom were in charge on Jan. 6 but have since resigned.
Echoing the others' accounts, Contee told lawmakers that there was intelligence indicating that protests in support of former President Trump on Jan. 6 might include "violent actions in the streets" of Washington — and could include armed demonstrators. But there were no signs pointing to a violent insurrection of the Capitol building.
"The District did not have intelligence pointing to a coordinated assault on the Capitol," his prepared statement reads.
Contee said there were 300 unarmed members of the D.C. National Guard initially deployed the day of the attack, but only to provide traffic control and other non-interventionist services. He noted that because Washington is not a state, only the president, not D.C. officials, have the power to deploy the Guard.
Contee emphasized other limitations of the authority of the D.C. police force, including the fact that it has no jurisdiction to patrol or make arrests in the Capitol without an explicit request from the Capitol Police. That request, Contee testified, came from Sund just before 1 p.m. on Jan. 6, and MPD arrived on the scene "within minutes."
More than 1,100 District police officers would ultimately respond to the attack, Contee said, and 65 of them were injured. A 66th would take his own life a few days later.