Two Capitol police officers seek to punish Trump with lawsuit over Jan. 6 riot injuries

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A U.S. Capitol Police car drives past the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 26, 2021.
Al Drago | Reuters

Two U.S. Capitol Police officers sued Donald Trump, blaming him for “physical and emotional injuries” they suffered due to the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol by a mob of the former president’s supporters.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday said Trump “inflamed, encouraged, incited, directed, and aided and abetted” the rioters who broke into the building, forcing a joint session of Congress into hiding and resulting in five deaths.

The complaint from officers Sidney Hemby and James Blassingame, who have respectively been on the force for 11 and 17 years, said Trump’s conduct “resulted in injuries to United States Capitol Police officers and Metropolitan Police Department officers,” including themselves.

Blassingame “suffered injuries to his head and back” and continues to be “haunted” by the attack, the complaint said. Hemby’s left hand and left knee became swollen and painful following the riot, and he is receiving physical therapy up to three days a week for his neck and back, according to the lawsuit.

The officers are each seeking more than $75,000 in compensatory damages, says their legal complaint, which was filed in Washington federal court. Hemby and Blassingame are the first officers to sue over the invasion.

They are also asking for punitive damages against Trump “to punish him for his intentional and wanton and reckless conduct, and to deter others from engaging in similar behavior,” the complaint said.

A spokesman for Trump did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the lawsuit.

Trump was impeached in the House on an article of “incitement of insurrection,” but he was acquitted in the Senate, which is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. His defense team in the Senate trial had argued that Trump’s incendiary rhetoric at a rally outside the White House on Jan. 6 could not be viewed as an incitement to violence or insurrection.

But the 40-page complaint from Hemby and Blassingame directly links Trump’s pre-riot speech, in which he told his followers they had to “fight like hell” and march to the Capitol, with the violence that followed.

“As he was making these remarks, Trump’s followers on the Ellipse began chanting ‘Fight like Hell,’ and ‘Fight for Trump.’ After he was done speaking, they changed to, ‘Storm the Capitol,’ ‘Invade the Capitol Building,’ and ‘Take the Capitol right now,'” the complaint alleged.

“As Trump concluded his speech near the White House, his followers who were already at the Capitol became insurrectionists,” it said.

The complaint said Hemby and Blassingame were chased, punched, sprayed with chemicals and crushed against the Capitol doors by the mob.

“Officer Hemby was attacked relentlessly,” the lawsuit alleged. “He was bleeding from a cut located less than an inch from his eye. He had cuts and abrasions on his face and hands and his body was pinned against a large metal door, fending off attacks.”

Near the Crypt of the Capitol, below the Rotunda, rioters were “were throwing items, and striking Officer Blassingame and the other USCP officers with their fists and weapons,” the complaint said.

“A forceful surge of insurrectionists pushed forward and slammed Officer Blassingame against a stone column. He struck his spine and the back of his head and was unable to move,” it says.

The lawsuit alleges rioters yelled the N-word at Blassingame “throughout the attack,” to the point that he “lost count of the many times the racial slur was hurled at him.”

The complaint also points out that Republican lawmakers at the time, as well as some of the many people arrested in connection with the invasion, credited Trump with spurring the riot.

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