The head of the US Capitol police and two other senior security officials are resigning amid mounting criticism of the bungled policing of the assault on Capitol Hill by a violent mob of Trump supporters that saw the death of a rioter as well as a Capitol police officer.
Steven Sund’s resignation will be effective from 16 January, and follows calls by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and other senior figures for heads to roll over the occupation of the Capitol on Wednesday by rioters who had been incited by Donald Trump to march on Congress as it sat to certify Joe Biden’s victory in November’s elections.
“There was a failure of leadership at the top,” Pelosi said.
Michael Stenger, the Senate sergeant-at-arms, has resigned as well, along with Paul Irving, the official who holds the same position at the House of Representatives.
The Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, had said he would fire Stenger when he became majority leader later this month if he did not stand down.
The resignations follow the disclosure by the Capitol police service that one of its officers who was injured after responding to riots ahas died. Brian D Sicknick died on Thursday due to injuries sustained while on duty, physically engaging with protesters at the Capitol, a statement said.
Sicknick returned to his division office and collapsed, the report said, later dying in hospital. The death will be investigated by the DC Metropolitan police department’s homicide branch, the Capitol police and federal law enforcement officials.
Capitol police leadership provided details about the deadly incident that left lawmakers and staff fearful for their lives. Sund’s announced departure comes as he detailed the violence that led to the fatal shooting of a woman who was among the rioters, saying that police were “actively attacked” with metal pipes and other weapons.
“They [the mob] were determined to enter into the Capitol building by causing great damage,” Sund said.
The Capitol police fired on the woman as “protesters were forcing their way toward the House chamber where members of Congress were sheltering in place.”
The resignations come as new details emerged over what critics have described as serious failures of leadership by those detailed to protect Congress in the days and in the hours leading up to the Capitol’s storming.
According to reports the Pentagon had asked the Capitol police if it required additional National Guard manpower in the run-up to 6 January, while the Justice Department had also reportedly offered additional FBI personnel to help even as the march headed towards the Capitol, with both offers declined.
Amid allegations that he had missed the well-advertised potential for violence, Sund has said he had only expected a display of “First Amendment activities” instead of being confronted by a “violent attack”.
The army secretary, Ryan McCarthy, said that as the rioting was under way, it became clear that the Capitol police were being overrun.
But he said there was no contingency planning done in advance for what forces could do in case of a problem at the Capitol because US defense department help was turned down. “They’ve got to ask us, the request has to come to us,” said McCarthy.
Gus Papathanasiou, head of the Capitol police union, said planning failures left officers exposed without backup or equipment against surging crowds of rioters.
“We were lucky that more of those who breached the Capitol did not have firearms or explosives and did not have a more malign intent,” Papathanasiou said in a statement.
“Tragic as the deaths are that resulted from the attack, we are fortunate the casualty toll was not higher.”