The police chief for the U.S. Capitol resigned on Thursday, a day after supporters of President Donald Trump rampaged through the seat of American government.
Steven Sund, one of three top security officials to depart his job in the riot’s aftermath, announced his resignation amid calls for accountability after his officers were overwhelmed in the storming of the Capitol building.
A spokesperson for Chief Sund, who has led the 2,000-member force since 2019, confirmed his Jan. 16 exit in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail, but did not elaborate on whether the move was a response to questions raised by this week’s events, including a call for his departure by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Paul Irving, the Capitol sergeant-at-arms in charge of the safety and security of members of Congress and the Capitol complex, also resigned his post.
Mitch McConnell, the outgoing majority leader of the U.S. Senate, said he had requested and received the resignation of Michael Stenger, the Senate sergeant-at arms and doorkeeper, effective immediately. In a statement, he called for examination of the “serious failures” of this week as efforts continue to prepare for a “safe and successful” Jan. 20 inauguration of the next president, Joe Biden.
Earlier Thursday, Ms. Pelosi said Chief Sund had not even called her team about the events, which led to legislators and staff being hustled to safety, as well as four deaths.
One of Mr. Trump’s supporters was shot by a Capitol police officer during the riot, suffering fatal injuries. On Thursday night, a Capitol police officer died from injuries he sustained after confronting pro-Trump rioters the day before. The force said officer Brian Sicknick was injured “while physically engaging with protesters” during the Wednesday riot. Washington Police Chief Robert Contee said three other people died in “medical emergencies.”
”Many of our Capitol Police just acted so bravely and with such concern for the staff and the members, for the Capitol of the United States, and they deserve our gratitude,” Ms. Pelosi told journalists. “But there was a failure of leadership at the top of the Capitol Police,” the Speaker said. “We’re calling for [Mr. Sund’s] resignation.”
The Speaker was among many raising questions. Muriel Bowser, the Mayor of the District of Columbia, said Thursday that Congress must create a non-partisan commission to understand this week’s “security failures” at the Capitol in order to hold people accountable and ensure they never happen again.
“We must also understand why the federal law enforcement response was much stronger at the protests over the summer than during yesterday’s attack on Congress,” Ms. Bowser added, referencing the intense deployment of police resources to deal with protests against police brutality.
Questions have been raised about why the Capitol Police were not better prepared for demonstrations that were widely expected, and promoted on social media, and why they also did not seek the support of other law-enforcement agencies to bolster their prepared response.
Before his resignation was revealed, Chief Sund issued a statement that did not directly respond to Ms. Pelosi’s criticism, but praised his officers for responding “valiantly” when faced with thousands of people engaged in “violent riotous actions.”
“These individuals actively attacked United States Capitol Police officers and other uniformed law enforcement officers with metal pipes, discharged chemical irritants, and took up other weapons against our officers. They were determined to enter into the Capitol building by causing great damage,” Chief Sund said in the statement.
In the melee, a Capitol Police officer fatally shot a protester, now identified as Ashli Babbitt, as protesters were, according to Chief Sund, forcing their way toward the House chamber where members of Congress were sheltering in place.
Supporters of Mr. Trump, who had earlier in the day encouraged protest, took over the House and Senate chambers, at times waving Confederate and Trump flags. More than 60 people have been arrested.
“The violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was unlike any I have ever experienced in my 30 years in law enforcement here in Washington, D.C.,” Chief Sund said.
He said his police force has had a “robust plan” for dealing with activism he described as “First Amendment activities,” but the chaos Wednesday went beyond that. “Make no mistake – these mass riots were not First Amendment activities; they were criminal riotous behaviour.”
With a file from The Associated Press
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