- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 31, 2021

A pair of U.S. Capitol Police officers who say they suffered physical and emotional injuries in the Jan. 6 riot sued former President Donald Trump on Wednesday, accusing him of inciting the insurrection.

Officers James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby allege that Mr. Trump directed the assaults and batterings carried out by the rioters, who stormed the Capitol to stop Congress from certifying President Biden’s election victory.

The two officers, who have a combined 28 years on the force, they are seeking at least $75,000 each in damages.

It is the first lawsuit filed over the attack, but the number of officers who are likely to either join this suit or file separate legal actions could add up, said John F. Banzhaf III, a law professor at The George Washington University.

“If this survives the motion to dismiss, it will encourage a lot more people to come on board,” he said. “Not just officers, but you have staffers, government officials, and possibly actual members of Congress, which would put them in a stronger position.”

Officer Hemby says that during the attack, he was “crushed against the doors” of the Capitol, “sprayed with chemicals” and sustained injuries that caused his face to bleed. 

Officer Blassingame says he was slammed against a stone column, injuring his head and back.

The lawsuit says Officer Blassingame now suffers from depression and that the “severe emotional toll … continues to reveal itself.”

He is “haunted by the memory of being attacked, and of the sensory impacts — the sights, sounds, smells and even tastes of the attack remain close to the surface,” according to the lawsuit.

Officer Blassingame, who is Black, also says he was called the n-word slur so many times during the assault that he lost count.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Capitol Police said the officers were acting as individuals, not on behalf of the department.

Mr. Trump did not respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Washington. He has previously denied responsibility for the mob attack and last week claimed the rioters were “hugging and kissing the police” at the Capitol.

The lawsuit says Mr. Trump “inflamed, encouraged, incited (and) directed” the violent mob.

The former president is the only defendant named in the lawsuit. Two Democratic lawmakers who filed a suit last month over the riot sued Mr. Trump, lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, who, along with the president, spoke at a rally ahead of the attack, and members of two right-wing groups that have been charged by the Justice Department with taking part in the siege.

“That the suit is entirely against Trump says this isn’t a serious suit, but rather filed for some kind of political purpose,” Mr. Banzhaf said. “If it was a serious suit, it would have included Giuliani or one or two other speakers at the rally.”

The lawsuit directly links Mr. Trump’s pre-riot speech, in which he told his supporters to “fight like hell,” and the violence that followed. The House impeached Mr. Trump for inciting the riot, but the Senate didn’t convict him.

Mr. Banzhaf said the officers would have a stronger case suing some of the rioters who assaulted them. So far, the Justice Department has publicly filed charges against more than 230 riot suspects, including some who are accused of assaulting police officers.

“Many of the possible defenses that would apply to Trump would not apply to these guys,” he said. “We know who they are and the charges are pretty widely known. Why just Trump? Why not individual ‘X’ who sprayed officers with bear spray or individual ‘Z’ who is shown hitting an officer?”

Among the defenses that Mr. Trump could raise include First Amendment claims, as well as invoking the so-called Fireman’s Rule. The doctrine, which is law in the District of Columbia and other states, says firefighters and other first responders assume certain risks and cannot sue if they are injured on their job.

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