(NewsNation) —Former U.S. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards had already been struck unconscious by pro-Trump rioters at the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection when she woke up on a set of stairs and ran to help fellow officers trying to hold a thin line against a wave of protesters.
What she saw there, as Capitol police and officers from the Washington D.C. Metro Police Department desperately tried to feign off attackers, was something that she said made her breath “catch in her throat.”
During harrowing testimony delivered to the Jan. 6 investigative committee Thursday night, Edwards described witnessing a “war scene” in which her fellow officers were beaten and bloodied by rioters at the Capitol who aimed to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, which Donald Trump falsely claimed he won.
“There were officers on the ground, they were bleeding, they were throwing up, I saw friends with blood all over their faces,” Edwards said. “…It was carnage. It was chaos.”
Edwards said she scrambled to help those around her, slipping in blood and catching falling officers as she went. She tried to give medical aid and decontaminate people who had been hit with pepper spray amid the chaos.
She saw a fellow officer, Brian Sicknick, fall back from the line, pale as a “sheet of paper” holding his head in his hands. Edwards said “alarm bells” went off and she moved to help Sicknick. That’s when she too, was hit with pepper spray.
Another officer came to Edwards’ aid and led her to be decontaminated. But he didn’t succeed. They were hit with tear gas before any decontamination happened.
Those were just some of the harrowing memories laid out by Edwards, the “proud” granddaughter of a Marine who fought in the Korean War, before the investigative committee Thursday night.
She also remembers seeing Joseph Biggs, a leader of the far-right extremist group the “Proud Boys,” colluding with Ryan Samel, a fellow rioter who has since been charged with assaulting an officer, before the pair turned the crowd on Capitol police and began to push police lines back using bike racks.
Biggs had been using a megaphone to rant about members of Congress during the riot. Soon after, however, Edwards said he began to turn the conversation, and the mob, against Capitol police. Biggs began asking police about their pay and how many paychecks they missed during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve worked, I can conservatively say, hundreds of civil disturbance events … I know when I am being turned into a villain,” Edwards told the committee of that moment. “And that’s when I turned to my sergeant and I stated the understatement of the century … I said ‘Sarge, I think we’re going to need a few more people down here.'”
Almost immediately after Edwards said that, the mob surged forward. She grabbed on to two bike racks and did what she could to hold the line, but admitted she knew herself and four other officers would not be able to hold it long against the wave of rioters flowing toward them.
The rioters picked up the bike racks and lurched forward. Edwards remembers the bike rack going above her head as she was pushed back. Then her foot caught a step behind her. Her chin slammed into a hand railing, knocking her out. As she fell backward, the back of her head crashed into a set of concrete steps.
Edwards said she never imagined she would face something like that as a police officer.
Rioters called her “Nancy Pelosi’s dog,” a “traitor” and “incompetent” and they prepared to storm the Capitol. But in those moments, Edwards said she remembered her grandfather, who had donned a Marine uniform for combat in Korea. Despite the denigrations of the mob, she was “proud” to wear her uniform that day.
“They dared to question my honor. They dared to question my loyalty and they dared to question my duty. I am a proud American and I will gladly sacrifice everything to make sure that the America my grandfather defended is here for many years to come.”