Police ‘blocked’ trauma from January 6 attack, MPD detective testified

  • A Metropolitan Police detective testified that officers blocked the “traumatic” events of the Capitol riot.
  • Testimony came at the trial of a retired New York police officer accused of assaulting an MPD officer on January 6, 2021.
  • The accused former police officer alleges that he assaulted the Metro police officer in self-defense.

Immediately after January 6, 2021, investigators observed a phenomenon: officers responding to the day’s violence on Capitol Hill could not always remember the attacks they suffered at the hands of a pro-Trump mob.

But as he reviewed hours of footage from body-worn cameras, Metropolitan Police Detective Jonathan Lauderdale could see it all—the screams, the shoves, the punches, the swearing.

“Reviewing this over and over again was traumatic,” Lauderdale said Tuesday, recalling the “complete chaos” of January 6, 2021, in the latest jury trial related to the Capitol siege.

“The amount of body-worn camera footage I’ve reviewed… If I could forget about it, I would,” he added.

Lauderdale testified on the first day of testimony at the trial of Thomas Webster, a retired New York City police officer and former Marine accused of attacking a Washington, D.C., police officer on January 6, 2021.

The testimony highlighted how video footage — recorded by police and, in some cases, indicted by Capitol Hill protesters themselves — played a critical role in the nearly 800 lawsuits stemming from the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

Webster argued that he acted in self-defense after being hit in the face by Metropolitan Police Officer Noah Rathbun, whom Webster is accused of hitting with a flagpole – with the flag of the Marine Corps – and then falling to the ground and asphyxiating.

A former Marine, Lauderdale testified on Tuesday that he was not surprised that Rathbun could not initially remember his violent encounter with Webster outside the Capitol. Rathbun’s body camera captured the moment on January 6, 2021, when Webster started yelling at him from the other side of a bike fence, then slammed the flagpole against the metal barrier before attacking Rathbun.

Lauderdale on Tuesday testified that it reviewed the officer’s camera footage after Rathbun reported an injury sustained during an apparently related incident inside the Capitol rotunda on Jan. he said, “No, it didn’t look strange.”

“It didn’t seem strange at all. It was understandable,” testified Lauderdale. Referring to officers guarding the Capitol on January 6, he said, “Either they blocked it or they didn’t remember” the violence they suffered.

With Lauderdale’s testimony, federal prosecutors tried to thwart Webster’s argument that he acted in self-defense after being hit in the head by Rathbun. On Wednesday, Rathbun is due to testify, and Webster’s defense attorney plans to show video footage showing Webster pushing the metal fence into the officer before being hit in the face.

Prosecutors acknowledged on Tuesday that Rathbun at one point hit Webster with an open hand, but in his testimony on Tuesday, Lauderdale said the officer was “trying to create distance” after Webster shoved the bike rack at him.

Lauderdale said camera footage showed Webster calling Rathbun “shit” before pushing the bike rack at him and slamming the flagpole multiple times into the metal barrier.

“He was clearly aggressive,” Lauderdale said, adding that he was impressed that Rathbun had chosen to show restraint in disarming Webster – taking away his flagpole – rather than using pepper spray or his baton.

Webster then breaks through the metal barrier and “attacks” him with raised fists, Lauderdale said, narrating the body-camera footage to the judges.

Once on the ground, Webster tried to forcibly remove his helmet and mask, prosecutors said. In an FBI interview, Rathbun said he couldn’t breathe during the attack because Webster was choking him with the chin strap of his helmet.

Lauderdale on Tuesday testified that Webster was “actively suffocating” the Metro cop.

“He was being suffocated,” testified the detective.

In an interview with the FBI, Webster characterized him grabbing the officer’s helmet and face mask as “a sort of hockey move where you don’t want to fight somebody”. Webster’s defense attorney, James Monroe, presented the self-defense argument in his cross-examination of Lauderdale, suggesting that Rathbun had made “gestures of his hand to invite Mr. Webster to fight him”.

When the defense attorney raised how Rathbun had failed to report his fight with Webster, Lauderdale reiterated that he didn’t find the oversight unusual.

“A lot of people forgot things because of the chaos there,” Lauderdale said.

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