Two Capitol Police officers injured in hand-to-hand combat during the Jan. 6 insurrection are suing former President Donald Trump for inciting his supporters, many of whom later stormed Congress and formed a mob that assaulted more than 100 officers protecting lawmakers.
Officers James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby described a severe physical and emotional toll from the riot that continues to haunt them. And in a 40-page lawsuit, they said Trump bears direct responsibility for unleashing violent followers upon the Capitol. Both officers are seeking unspecified compensation and damages greater than $75,000 apiece.
The lawsuit leans heavily on Trump’s own words to rioters on Jan. 6 — a public record that already resulted in his impeachment for incitement and public condemnations by lawmakers of both parties, as well as separate lawsuits by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.).
But it’s the officer’s harrowing personal accounts that add new chapters to the growing collection of horrors unleashed that day. Blassingame said he was slammed into a stone column while rioters hurled the N-word at him. Hemby sayid he suffered hand and knee injuries that require continued medical care. Both said they suffer from ongoing emotional trauma that has upended their lives.
The officers’ description of the mob also serves as a stark counterpoint to Trump, who this week falsely portrayed the riot as a peaceful gathering, where his supporters posed “zero threat” and were “hugging and kissing” police. More than 100 officers were injured that day and one, Brian Sicknick, later died of as-yet-undetermined causes — though video footage shows he was maced by a rioter hours before he collapsed. Two other officers have since died by suicide, which their families attribute to the trauma of the attack and the toll it took in the aftermath.
In the suit, Blassingame described watching helplessly as the mob overtook officers pinned to the Capitol’s west front. Then, he watched as a “sea of people” charged toward him and a small band of officers inside the Capitol Crypt.
“The insurrectionists were throwing items, and striking Officer Blassingame and the other USCP officers with their fists and weapons,” according to the suit, led by D.C.-based attorney Patrick Malone. “Among the weapons Officer Blassingame could see were flagpoles like those he had seen on D Street early in the morning; water bottles; bottles of other unknown liquids; parts of signs they were ripping from the walls of the Crypt and hallway; and flags, flagpoles, and rope-line posts that had been taken from the Crypt and other parts of the Capitol building.”
“Then a forceful surge of insurrectionists pushed forward and slammed Officer Blassingame against a stone column. He struck his spine and the back of his head and was unable to move,” the suit continues. “For the first time in his life, people were yelling into his face, calling him a [n——] repeatedly and throughout the attack in the Crypt. He lost count of the many times the racial slur was hurled at him.”
After breaking free of the mob, Blassingame relocated to aid the evacuation of House members to a committee room where they could remain protected until the riot was dispersed. He noted that many in the room remained maskless despite the threat of Covid but that “he had no option but to remain in place” until 7:30 p.m. that night.
Blassingame was guarding lawmakers when he heard the officer’s gunshot that fatally wounded rioter Ashli Babbitt. In the moment, he said it was unclear whether it was the start of a new surge of violence that would require him to draw his gun.
“The weight on Officer Blassingame has been heavy and pervasive,” the suit continues. “He was not able to sleep and he could not talk about what happened, even with his wife and friends. He suffered from depression that he could not address because he was too consumed with a sense of obligation to continue on with his professional responsibilities.”
Hemby, stationed on the Capitol’s East Front, was positioned at the top of the steps outside the rotunda when the mob approached and challenged officers to join them or stand down.
“Officer Hemby was attacked relentlessly. He was bleeding from a cut located less than an inch from his eye. He had cuts and abrasions on his face and hands and his body was pinned against a large metal door, fending off attacks,” according to the suit. “His primary focus was to survive and simply get home.”
Hemby, per the suit, couldn’t get medical attention until 9pm that night.
“As a result of the attack, Officer Hemby’s left hand and left knee became swollen and painful. He was sprayed in the face and body with chemical sprays. His back and neck ached, and his skin burned,” he alleges. “Officer Hemby is under the care or an orthopedic medical specialist and receives physical therapy two to three days per week for his neck and back. He continues to sleep poorly and feels hyper-aware and on high alert during his waking hours.”
In arguing for damages, Malone points to comments by lawmakers — including Republicans like Rep. Liz Cheney and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell — that squarely place the blame for the Jan. 6 insurrection upon Trump. McConnell in particular said in a floor speech that Trump could be held legally liable for inciting the riot.
“President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office, as an ordinary citizen, unless the statute of limitations has run, still liable for everything he did while in office, didn’t get away with anything yet — yet,” McConnell said at the time. “We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one.”