Authored by Joseph M. Hanneman via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
Days before violence broke out at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, a U.S. Capitol Police captain ordered the confiscation of dozens of riot helmets from officers without the knowledge of Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, a former USCP lieutenant told The Epoch Times.
Former Capitol Police Lt. Tarik K. Johnson said he was ordered to collect “20 to 30” helmets by his immediate supervisor, Capt. Ben Smith. Johnson said there was no explanation for the order, but he assumed the equipment was past its expiration date.
The collection was done within the two weeks prior to Jan. 6, most likely the week of Dec. 28, 2020, to Jan. 1, 2021, Johnson said.
“Now, did they tell me that the helmets were expired? Nobody told me that they were,” Johnson said in an interview with The Epoch Times. “But if they were perfectly good helmets, why would you take them?”
After receiving a list of officers from Smith, Johnson said, he had sergeants announce the helmet collection at roll call. He said officers brought their helmets to his office.
Johnson said he first reported the helmet confiscation to the office of U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) during a meeting on Jan. 11, 2021.
Johnson said he served on Leahy’s Capitol Police protective detail for more than two years. Leahy retired from the U.S. Senate in January after nearly 50 years in office.
Johnson said the day after he met with J.P. Dowd, Leahy’s chief of staff, he received notice of suspension from U.S. Capitol Police. The Epoch Times reached out to Dowd regarding the meeting, but did not receive a response by press time.
More recently, Johnson reported the helmet issue to the GOP-controlled Committee on House Administration, which oversees Capitol Police. Committee staff asked him for a meeting to discuss Jan. 6 issues, he said. That meeting could take place within the coming days.
A Committee on House Administration staff member contacted by The Epoch Times declined to comment on the helmet issue or Johnson’s possible testimony.
The Epoch Times contacted Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger and USCP Director of Communications Tim Barber for comment on Johnson’s allegations, but they did not respond by press time.
‘Why the Urgency?’
Johnson and Sund said the proper procedure would have been for the USCP Property Asset Management Division to handle the collection of the old equipment and issuance of new helmets.
“I don’t do property inventory,” Johnson said. “So even when they were bringing me the helmets, there’s no mechanism for me to give them a receipt anyway because we never do that. I’ve never seen that done. I’d been there a lot of years, and I never had to take helmets.”
Sund, who was forced to resign as chief on Jan. 7, 2021, said he would not have issued a confiscation order—especially so close to a major protest scheduled for the National Mall and Capitol grounds.
“TK [Johnson] bringing this up is the first I’ve heard of them taking back helmets,” Sund told The Epoch Times.
“These helmets could have expired a year, two years ago,” Sund said. “Well, why the urgency to collect them now? That’s what I just don’t know. I just don’t know when they expired, if, indeed, they expired.”
Sund said that in the fall of 2020, he obtained a $320,000 budget to purchase helmets. The goal was for every sworn officer to have head protection. Supply-chain delays due to COVID-19 hindered the fulfillment of the USCP order, he said.
Riot helmets are designed to protect officers from blunt impact from objects like bats or pipes, and projectiles such as stones, bricks, or water bottles. Flip-down face shields are also meant to protect from chemical agents such as pepper spray.
The department secured the delivery of 104 helmets on Jan. 4, 2021. Those helmets were intended for officers who were not part of the Civil Disturbance Unit (CDU), Sund said.
“I was pushing to get helmets in and get helmets distributed,” Sund said. “To hear TK [Johnson] say they’re pulling helmets back and not doing a one-for-one [exchange], that’s very concerning.
“If they were concerned about the helmets being expired, why be concerned right then, right before January 6?” Sund said. “How long ago did the helmets expire? Did they expire a year ago? Why all of a sudden the urge, the rush to haul them in?”
Photographs and video from the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6 show dozens of Capitol Police officers outside the building wearing USCP baseball caps or knit winter hats. Some of the officers worked at police barricades where violence broke out.
Videos show most of the USCP officers guarding the Columbus Doors on the east side of the Capitol did not have helmets or face shields. Agitators attacked Capitol Police with pepper spray and projectiles before the crowd entered the Columbus Doors that lead into the Rotunda.
‘Mine Was Also Taken Away’
The chairman of the Capitol Police Labor Committee said he blew the whistle on confiscated safety equipment months before Jan. 6 and long before Johnson was ordered to collect riot helmets.
“Helmets were taken from USCP officers way before Jan. 6th, as were gas masks.” Gus Papathanasiou told The Epoch Times in an email. “I was aware, as mine was also taken away.”
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