Two U.S. Capitol Police veterans on duty during the Jan. 6 riot sued Donald Trump, accusing the former president of inciting the violent mob that injured scores of officers.
The complaint, filed Tuesday, follows two suits by Democratic members of Congress who also blamed Trump for stoking the insurrection as part of a months-long effort to reverse his election loss to Joe Biden.
Officers James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby claim protesters attacked them with aerosol chemicals, including pepper spray and tear gas, that burned their eyes and skin. In addition to the physical injuries the officers sustained during the riot, Blassingame has suffered from depression in the aftermath of the siege, according to the complaint, filed in federal court in Washington.
Blassingame “is haunted by the memory of being attacked, and of the sensory impacts — the sights, sounds, smells and even tastes of the attack remain close to the surface,” according to the complaint. “He experiences guilt of being unable to help his colleagues who were simultaneously being attacked; and of surviving where other colleagues did not.”
A spokeswoman for Trump, and Jesse Binnall, a lawyer representing Trump in the Congress members’ suits, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit offers a minute-by-minute account of the violence at the Capitol from the perspective of the two officers.
As the crowd charged forward, Hemby was part of a group of officers assembled along a line of bike racks blocking access to the building. When the rioters broke through, the lawsuit said, he and other officers were chased up a flight of stairs and crushed against a set of doors as they tried to hold the crowd back. The rioters sprayed Hemby with chemicals that “irritated his eyes, skin, and throat,” according to the complaint. One rioter screamed in his face that he was “disrespecting the badge,” the lawsuit said.
Meanwhile, Blassingame was slammed against a stone column, the lawsuit said, and subjected to repeated use of a racial slur. “The insurrectionists struck Officer Blassingame in his face, head, chest, arms, and what felt like every part of his body,” the lawsuit said. “The threats and attacks on Officer Blassingame seemed endless.”
The officers are seeking unspecified monetary damages for claims against Trump that include aiding assault and battery and directing infliction of emotional distress.
The riot resulted in the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick and left more than 100 others injured. Two other officers who defended the Capitol died by suicide shortly after the attack.
Legal experts have long anticipated a wave of private lawsuits targeting Trump and others over the violence at the Capitol. The suits raise the prospect of a lengthy discovery process that could uncover new evidence of Trump’s role in provoking the siege.
But any suit against Trump will have to overcome a legal hurdle: He is likely to claim that his speech on Jan. 6 and his other claims about the election fell within his presidential duties, shielding him from litigation.
In February, U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, filed the first major suit over the riot, claiming that Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani conspired to incite the siege in violation of a law enacted to combat Ku Klux Klan intimidation.
U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat, filed a second lawsuit against Trump in early March, alleging that the former president provoked the mob at the Capitol.
Trump has denied the allegations.
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