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Capitol Police chief sought DC National Guard help before riots. Who’s to blame for refusal?

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The U.S. Capitol Police chief who resigned from his position was reportedly denied an advanced request for the D.C. National Guard to be on standby before last week’s violence.

Steven Sund was in charge as last Wednesday’s protest turned deadly at the U.S. Capitol, and according to an interview with The Washington Post, he had asked his superiors for permission to have backup long before events took a deadly turn.

“If we would have had the National Guard we could have held them at bay longer, until more officers from our partner agencies could arrive,” Sund, who resigned Friday amid the fallout, told The Washington Post in the piece published Sunday.

Sund reportedly asked House and Senate security officials last Monday for permission to request the National Guard to be at the ready if needed as thousands descended on Washington, D.C. to rally for President Donald Trump as Congress began to certify the Electoral College votes.

(Image: Fox News screenshot)

However, House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving was allegedly not comfortable with the “optics” of what appeared to be an emergency before the January 6 protests had even begun. Sund told The Post that Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger recommended he should informally ask his contacts at the Guard to “lean forward” and be at the ready.

Sund indicated that a call to the head of the D.C. National Guard led to an understanding that about 125 personnel could be deployed swiftly if needed. An offer to help from the Metropolitan Police Department, along with the National Guard backup, seemed sufficient to Stenger, according to Sund who said he had briefed him as well as Irving after his calls.

Like Sund, Irving and Stenger have since resigned from their posts.

The former Capitol Police chief told The Post that he requested assistance ahead of the protest six times, and was either denied or the response was delayed.

“If we would have had the National Guard we could have held them at bay longer, until more officers from our partner agencies could arrive,” he said.

It wasn’t until 5:40 p.m. when the National Guard finally did arrive at the Capitol, but by then,  security had been breached and four people had died, according to The Washington Post. Last week, officials at the Pentagon contended that Capitol Police had not requested backup from the D.C. National Guard before Wednesday, and had only made an emergency request as a mob breached the building.

“We rely on Capitol Police and federal law enforcement to provide an assessment of the situation,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman reportedly said. “And based on that assessment that they had, they believed they had sufficient personnel and did not make a request.”

In a conference call with law enforcement officials after 2 p.m. Wednesday, as Sund told the newspaper he asked the Pentagon for backup, Senior Army official Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt reportedly said, “I don’t like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background.”

Capitol Police did get Vice President Mike Pence, the lawmakers and journalists inside the building to safety, and Sund praised their efforts in a statement last week.

“USCP officers and our law enforcement partners responded valiantly when faced with thousands of individuals involved in violent riotous actions as they stormed the United States Capitol Building,” he said.

But he recounted the chaos of the moment to The Post.

“As soon as they hit the fence line, the fight was on,” he said. “Violent confrontations from the start. They came with riot helmets, gas masks, shields, pepper spray, fireworks, climbing gear — climbing gear! — explosives, metal pipes, baseball bats. I have never seen anything like it in 30 years of events in Washington.”

Sund added a warning to federal officials in his interview, saying “if they don’t get their act together with physical security, it’s going to happen again.”

Frieda Powers

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