Staff assistant feared she'd be shot amid Capitol attacks

‘I thought I was going to die’: Staff assistant for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reveals she feared being ‘tortured, raped and shot’ as she hid under a table during US Capitol attack

  • Leah Han is staff assistant for Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi 
  • Woman, from Washington DC, hid in dark locked room opposite office
  • Hid underneath a table as marauding Trump protesters roamed the corridors 
  • Broke down in tears speaking in BBC2 documentary Four Hours at the Capitol 

A staff assistant for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi feared she would be ‘tortured, raped and shot’ as she hid underneath a table during the attack on the US Capitol last January. 

Leah Han, from Washington DC, who is a senior staff assistant at U.S. House of Representatives, was trapped in the building as a mob of Trump supporters rioted, seeking to overturn his defeat in the 2020 presidential election. 

After evacuating Pelosi’s office, Leah hid in a locked, dark room opposite her office as hoards of marauding protesters roamed the corridors terrified that she and her colleagues would be ‘taken hostage’ if they were discovered. 

Appearing on BBC2 documentary Four Hours at the Capitol which aired tonight, she broke down in tears as she recalled how she ‘thought she was going to die’ and said she ‘couldn’t text her parents’ because she wouldn’t be able to control her emotions.  

Leah Han (pictured), from Washington DC, who is a senior staff assistant at U.S. House of Representatives, appeared on tonight’s BBC Two documentary and revealed how she feared she would be ‘tortured, raped and shot’ as she hid underneath a table during the attack on the US Capitol last January

After evacuating Pelosi’s office, Leah (pictured) hid in a locked, dark room opposite her office as hoards of marauding protesters roamed the corridors terrified that she and her colleagues would be ‘taken hostage’ if they were discovered

Leah revealed that around 2pm, when rioters had broken into the corridors, she and her colleagues moved from their office to a room across the hallway. 

‘We turned off the lights and just settled down and once the commotion got louder we all hid under the table to feel more secure, everyone just held their breath and it was just silent’, she said. 

As they continued to encroach on the office, Leah explained: ‘We knew they were there. We knew they were close by and that was the scary part. I’m in the dark right now and hiding under a table. 

‘I was thinking, “If they find us, are they going to keep us hostage? Are they going to torture us, am I going to get raped, am I going to get shot, do they have weapons?” 

‘Then they started banging on our door, they just didn’t get in. I still don’t know how they didn’t, maybe they just didn’t think it was worth trying to open because it looks like nothing back there. 

‘I thought I was going to die, I didn’t think I was going to go home that day and I knew if I text my parents to tell them I love them I was going to cry and I just couldn’t. I was not going to let myself cry. I figured if I’m going to die my parents will know I love them’. 

In January last year, a mob of Trump supporters rioted, seeking to overturn his defeat in the 2020 presidential election (pictured)

Around 2pm that day, protesters (pictured) broke glass windows and into the building

Pelosi was evacuated from House floor at 14.13pm to a secure off-site location as protesters spread across the building looking for the politician while chanting threats. 

The 90-minute documentary featured unseen footage from the attack alongside interviews with rioters and police officers who were at the heart of the protests.   

Officer Michael Fanone, of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, said that January 6th started off as ‘any other day for me.’

He continued: ‘It wasn’t until I started listening to the speeches that were given at that rally I felt that day was going to be a bad day.

The timeline of the four hour attack on the Capitol 

08:17 – Trump tweets claiming Joe Biden’s presidential win was fraudulent 

 10:58 – Members of the Proud Boy right wing group begin marching towards the Capitol 

12:00 – Trump begins a speech at his rally inciting his supporters to ‘peacefully’ protest outside the Capitol building

13:10 – Trump’s speech ends as protesters have already broken past the police barrier outside the building. Soon after Capitol police send an evacuation warning 

14:13 – Protesters break glass windows and break into the building 

14:24 – The House floor debate is suspended and members are soon informed the mob are minutes from the door of the Senate Chamber

 14:40 – Ashli Babbit is shot as a number of rioters reach the inside of the Senate gallery 

15:00 The mob continue to protest at the Capitol 

16:17 – Trump releases a video telling the mob to leave  

‘I could tell, today might be a problem. I’ve been a police officer for nearly two decades and that day, to think that I and a s**t tonne of my fellow officers nearly lost their lives, pisses me the f**k off.’

Michael was brutally attacked during the protests after being dragged down the Capitol’s marble stairs by rioters and beaten with pipes, tear-gassed and tasered at the base of the skull multiple times. 

The officer, who entered the scene at around 3pm, said radio communications amid the attack were ‘more in line with combat’ and recalled being branded a ‘traitor’ by rioters as he approached.  

As Michael protected the building from protesters a member of the crowd dragged him from his fellow officers and into the mob: 

He recalled: ‘I remember him yelling out “Yeah I got one”. Then I knew, yeah I’m f****’. 

‘I remember kind of getting pounded from every side and I remember people yelling out to get his gun, kill him with his gun, and I started getting tasered at the base of my skull. It was excruciatingly painful. 

‘I remember yelling out that I had kids, trying to appeal to somebody with humanity and it worked and ultimately I think that led to my survival.’ 

The attack began at around 12pm, when members of the right-wing group Proud Boy movement started marching towards the Capitol ahead of a speech Trump was delivering to his supporters at a rally in Washington DC.

Eddie Block, a member of the group, said: ‘Everyone just started marching on the grass towards the Capitol. They felt the election was stolen. They felt their vote was taken away from them and they felt this was the only way to get their voices heard’.      

Tayler Hansen, a freelance reporter who followed the march, says the initial breach of the police barrier was almost 20 minutes before Trump finished his speech, adding that officers were already becoming ‘overwhelmed’.  

Another member of the Proud Boys group, Bobby Pickles detailed the moment the initial barrier was broken, describing it as ‘sheer bedlam, nobody cares, nobody cares about law or anything like that.’

He continued: ‘There was no symbol, no sign, it was just everybody acting in unison and that’s when all hell broke loose.  

‘At this moment there was a lot of fighting between patriotic people and Capitol police. When you really believe a tyrannical government are taking over the country some crazy stuff is going to go down. It was us versus them’. 

The 90-minute documentary featured unseen footage from the attack alongside interviews with rioters and police officers who were at the heart of the protests. Pictured, scenes in January last year

Hoards of marauding protesters (pictured) roamed the corridors leaving Leah terrified

Officer Winston Pingeon of the US Capitol police who was on the front line as the rioters broke down police barriers said: ‘The crowd was very hostile and very quickly we were completely surrounded’.   

Tyler explained things began to descend further when a member of the crowd picked up the police barrier and threw it at an office, describing the riot from that point as ‘pure anarchy’.   

MPD Commander Raymey Kyle admitted he feared for the lives of his officers, while Robert Glover added the riot was like being in a war zone. 

‘When I first arrived it sounded like a battle was raging, right then I knew we were in for a big fight’,’ said Kyle. 

‘I think if we had bore weapons and started shooting there would have been a huge loss of life, maybe on both sides. 

Another member of the Proud Boys group, Bobby Pickles (pctured) detailed the moment the initial barrier was broken, describing it as ‘sheer bedlam, nobody cares, nobody cares about law or anything like that.’

‘It felt like we were 100-to-one. Officers were falling off the line, they were bleeding and injured. I was terrified if they broke our lines they could pick off officers one by one.’

Commander Glover added: ‘I remember walking through blood, it came from one of our sergeants who lost a portion of his hand. 

‘We’re civilian police officers, we see trauma every day we see the worst of humanity but nothing can prepare you for that, this is something you would see in combat’. 

By 2.13pm, protestors had broken past police protecting the west steps and battled their way into the building and an immediate recess of the Senate was called.  

Officer Keith Robishaw recalled how they tried to subdue protesters who were shouting threats as they battled their way through the building. 

‘Tensions were high’, he explained. ‘They had to fight their way in. They showed their intent for violence. They’re screaming things like, “We’re coming for you Mike Pence, you can’t hide from us, we’re going to find you.”‘

‘If I said I wasn’t scared I would be lying, I was terrified, I didn’t know what to do.

‘Meeting them with violence at this time would not be safe for me or my fellow officers, the sheer number of them and us – there was no way we could all get physical with them. 

‘So I tried to talk to them, “You’re not here to hurt us. We’re not here to hurt you, we just want everything to simmer down”‘. 

Leah (pictured) broke down in tears as she recalled how she ‘thought she was going to die’ and said she ‘couldn’t text her parents’ because she wouldn’t be able to control her emotions

As the mob encroached on the Senate chamber, Democrat Representative Ruben Gallego feared he would have to fight off the protesters himself.  

‘People were hyperventilating,’ he said. ‘It was just bad, they were scared, they were really really scared.’ 

‘I was an inventory man in the United States Marine Core, I had to deal with some very aggressive crowds when I was in Iraq, individuals themselves aren’t usually a problem. But when they get collectively together and create a mob, the mob is the weapon.

‘I was ready to fight, I saw a lot of sh*t back in my day but I was not going to die on the floor on the f***ing floor of the house of representative. I was not going to get killed by some insurrectionist b*****. 

‘My plan was to stab somebody in the eye and throat and take away their weapon and fight to survive.’ 

At 2.44pm, rioter Ashli Babbitt was shot by Capitol Police while attempting to force entry into the Speaker’s Lobby adjacent to the House chambers by climbing through a window that led to the House floor.   

Minutes later, the Governor of Virginia sent the Virginia National Guard to aid the U.S. Capitol, with MPD Commander Kyle saying: ‘It was pretty much a fight the entire time. 

‘We had injured officers they couldn’t see they couldn’t breathe. I would tell them I’m sorry but you have to get back in the fight we’re about to lose this. I didn’t want my name going down in history as the guy who gave up the Capitol. 

Virginia state police showed up, full gear, that was one of the best sights I’ve ever seen and we did not lose the door. We were able to hold it until the very end.’

An hour later, at 4:17 pm, a video of Trump was uploaded to Twitter in which he instructed the rioters ‘you have to go home now’. He tweeted later in the evening calling the protesters ‘great patriots’. 

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