Internal Police Emails Shed Light on January 6th Capitol Insurrection
The emails, through the eyes of the police, document how the situation escalated from a rally into a full-fledged insurrection, sparking concerns about the ability of the Capitol Police to protect lawmakers.
Internal emails between the US Park Police (USPP) and the National Park Service (NPS), obtained by NBC 4 Washington through the Freedom of Information Act,
offer new insights into the hours before the January 6th Capitol insurrection.
In anticipation of large crowds, police were dispatched to the White House Ellipse for President Donald Trump’s ‘stop the steal’ rally. Early on, police raised security concerns over an overwhelming amount of unsanctioned backpacks, with one email raising the alarm.
“Many/Most visitors have brought backpacks that are not permitted in the venue by USSS. USPP units are having to collect and sweep these backpacks. Some of the backpacks were placed in the trees on the WAMO grounds and are being removed by USPP and NPS assets,” an email reportedly read.
According to the report, security concerns were further complicated when police noticed people in the crowd “wearing ballistic helmets, body armor and carrying radio equipment and military grade backpacks.”
A 24-year-old with a rifle was arrested outside of the World War II Memorial, and an undercover unit monitored an individual in a tree who was suspected of having a handgun. By 9:35 a.m., approximately ten arrests had already been made. As noon approached, emails document the USPP and NPS’s rising level of concern as the threat at the Capitol began to crystalize.
“Capitol PD working three very suspicious packages around Capitol proper. We are checking our NPS areas for suspicious packages out of an abundance of caution, ” a USPP commander reportedly alerted in another email.
One package turned out to be an active pipe bomb placed outside of a Republican National Committee office. The discovery of the bomb caused police resources to be diverted away from the Capitol. As the threat escalated, communications between the USPP and the FBI increased, with an email reportedly warning, “US Capitol Police... heavily engaged with protestors at the west front of the Capitol. Chemical munitions and physical altercations ongoing.”
Police were tasked with managing a large crowd where the differences between peaceful and violent protestors were not readily apparent. This, combined with the large amount of firearms, pushed police into a difficult and increasingly dangerous situation. Attempting to break up the rally could cause violence, but not stopping a budding riot would guarantee it.