A US Capitol police officer injured on January 6, 2021, said Thursday that he is not leaving the force by choice, but “because they did that to me, the mob.”
“It’s tough making that decision after 16 years. Almost half of my life I had dedicated to be a public servant both in the military and also as a police officer,” US Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead.” “I’m not leaving because of my own accord but because they did that to me, the mob, and the people who support the former president.”
Gonell publicly announced his departure from the department on Monday, citing the lingering trauma of the US Capitol riot as a key reason for the end of his career, and he told CNN on Tuesday he made the decision to not return to the workplace in-person after he found a photo of former President Donald Trump taped to his work computer in October.
A Capitol Police spokesman previously told CNN, “We cannot comment on potential internal investigations,” when asked about the October incident described by Gonell.
“We are grateful for his many years of service, his sacrifice and his dedication to our mission,” the department said in a statement.
Gonell said that he doesn’t know why the photo was taped to his computer but that he “crumbled it” and threw it in the trash. “But then I said to myself, no, I can’t allow that happen because that’s going to entice them to do it again,” he added.
Gonell said he then scanned the photo and sent it up “the chain of command,” adding the move was “unacceptable” regardless of whether the person or persons who placed it “did it jesting or not.”
Since responding to the attack on the US Capitol nearly two years ago, Gonell has become a public face of the insurrection’s toll and a vocal critic of Trump and the Republicans who continue to defend him.
Gonell was badly beaten on January 6, as rioters descended on the US Capitol, bludgeoned police and sprayed chemical irritants. He was caught in a tunnel on the West Front, engaging in some of the most brutal fighting of the day, and he told CNN in his first interview in June 2021 that the chemical irritants soaked through his riot gear and clothing.
The hours-long fight left Gonell with injuries to his foot and shoulder. He spent months undergoing multiple surgeries and extensive medical rehabilitation. He eventually returned to the department working light duty for a time.
“Although my goal has been to return to full and unrestricted duty, my medical conditions are permanent,” he wrote in a letter to the Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger that he posted on Twitter on Monday.
“Having to return to the scene of the crime almost every day has become taxing, unbearable and not conducive to healing. After speaking with my orthopedic doctor, my mental health providers, and my family, I think it’s in my best interest to take time off away from the daily reminders that keep re-triggering my trauma.”
Gonell reiterated on Thursday that suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and injuries to his arm made it difficult for him to do his job, saying he doesn’t have the “luxury” to avoid a potential altercation as a police officer.
“So as a civilian, I could afford – I could have the luxury to walk away from that altercation or if it becomes violent or not. As a police officer, I cannot do that,” he said.
Despite the October incident, Gonell has complimented the men and women he stood beside throughout his career.
“I feel blessed that I’ve been able to work with so many incredible men and women of the Capitol Police force,” he wrote in his resignation letter. “I will always support and defend the United States and my fellow police officers as they stand between order and chaos.”
Moving forward, Gonell said he’s focused on healing from his injuries and a book he is working on.
Gonell’s last day with the department is Saturday, he said.
This story has been updated with additional details.