At the first January 6 trial, an ex-Capitol police officer recounted the pro-Trump mob's anger: 'We were outnumbered'
- A former
Capitol policeofficer was called as a witness in the first January 6 trial.
- The officer recalled a "sea of people" and the pro-Trump mob's anger as it approached the Capitol.
On January 6, 2021, then-Capitol police officer Shauni Kerkhoff encountered
On Wednesday, they met again across a courtroom as Kerkhoff appeared as the first witness in the first trial of an accused Capitol rioter on charges stemming from the January 6 insurrection.
Kerkhoff, who has since left the police force, recalled seeing a "sea of people" as hordes of Trump supporters closed in on the Capitol on January 6. Asked how she felt at that sight, Kerkhoff said: "That we were outnumbered."
"The crowd was as far as you could see," she said later.
While questioning Kerkhoff, federal prosecutors presented video of Reffitt ascending a stairway on the Capitol's west terrace, bellowing into a microphone as police officers directed him to stand down. The video showed Kerkhoff firing pepper balls — marble-sized projectiles designed to emit an irritating gas.
Kerkhoff estimated that she fired between 40 and 50 pepper balls, but they appeared to have little effect on Reffitt, who wore a tactical vest and helmet mounted with a GoPro-style camera. Other members of the Capitol police force followed up with a higher-powered launcher and a large canister of pepper spray, which appeared to stop Reffitt's advance.
Asked why she didn't use her firearm against Reffitt, Kerkhoff said she was concerned about hitting others and believed members of the pro-Trump mob were carrying weapons.
"I was afraid it was going to become a shoot-out," she said, adding that such an armed confrontation would have resulted in "several lives lost."
Almost 14 months to the day after the Capitol breach, prosecutors in the courtroom played a recording of her radio communication on January 6. Kerkhoff twice described her tone over the radio that day as "panicked."
"We need backup," Kerkhoff said over the radio. "They're coming up the stairs. They're coming up the stairs on the west side."
A federal prosecutor, Jeffrey Nestler, called Kerkhoff to the stand after delivering an opening argument that cast Reffitt as the leader of a crowd that encroached on the Capitol. Reffitt is facing charges that he obstructed an official proceeding, unlawfully entered the Capitol grounds with a handgun, and obstructed justice by threatening his children to keep them from reporting him to
Kerkhoff on Wednesday described the crowd as "angry and violent" and recounted the concern she felt as the mob approached.
"Our job is to project
The video showed Reffitt backing down only after Capitol police sprayed a plume of orange pepper spray at him. In the video, Reffitt could be seen waving the crowd forward as he reeled from the pepper spray.
"They were calling us traitors … That they supported us, and now we were betraying them," Kerkhoff said. "It made me feel angry."
"Why?," the federal prosecutor asked.
"Because it's my job to stand in their way," she said.
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