by Trish Rudder
A Berkeley Springs man was one of more than 24 law enforcement officers recognized by their department last month for their role in securing the U.S. Capitol during rioting on January 6 of this year.
Matthew Dixon is an officer with the Metro Transit Police Department in the D.C. area.
On the afternoon of January 6, Dixon and 10 other officers were quickly reassigned from their usual duties to protect the U.S. Capitol.
An insurrection was underway after a massive rally near the White House was held in support of then-President Trump.
Dixon, 35, said he was on alert because he knew of the rally that was planned for January 6 and knew that the Democrats had won two Senate runoff seats in Georgia, which added to the friction between the two parties.
It was a normal day when Dixon reported to his District 1 that day in January, he said last week. Dixon and his partner were going to get coffee after the briefing, but then at about 1:30 p.m. on January 6, the call came that the Metro Transit Police Officers were to report to the Capitol because a riot was taking place.
It took about 10 minutes to drive to Delaware and Constitution Avenues and the officers parked behind a riot team dressed in riot gear.
He and his partner have police equipment in their vehicle but no riot gear.
Along with his firearm, Dixon had a pepper spray ball gun that he wore as a sling that allowed him to have his hands free.
“The pepper ball gun came in handy,” he said.
A plan was made
Before officers went in, Dixon and the others stood outside first and planned how to protect themselves before they had to “push our way in,” he said.
“We said, ‘Don’t engage with the crowd; ignore what they are saying.’” Before entering, “we broke apart into two teams,” Dixon said. They were told to contact a certain U.S. Capitol officer but they could not find him.
Dixon said he heard a lot of crowd noise. There was a sea of people and they were yelling and screaming.
“It was definitely concerning. I knew it was bad,” he said.
A Capitol Police K-9 officer that was without his dog helped Dixon and his group get inside the Capitol through a maintenance door.
“We had to push through,” he said.
They met a mixed crowd, he said.
“Some said, ‘We support you,’ while others were cussing us out,” said Dixon.
When they got inside, Dixon said he smelled a chemical, a tear gas spray, and “an alarm was going off.”
“That concerned me. Was the building on fire?” he wondered.
They were in the East entrance area and did not see any rioters. They concentrated on keeping the Armory safe, he said.
“We were concerned the Armory would be taken,” Dixon said.
Then another Capitol Police officer yelled for them to go to the first floor, and Dixon and the officers turned around to go to the first floor from a service elevator.
Rioters ransacking offices
Officers were in the Senate Office Building where they saw rioters ransacking stuff in the offices. There was physical contact, Dixon said, between officers and rioters, “because we ordered them to leave and they would not. We finally got them moving out by standing shoulder to shoulder and pushing them, but they were pushing back”.
Yelling “Move back!” Dixon got results by firing a pepper spray ball at the wall.
“They didn’t like that,” he said, when the crowd breathed in the spray.
Officers went to the west side entrance where they saw a large number of rioters in the Rotunda. He saw about 50 police officers “trying to hold the door shut against about a thousand rioters,” he said.
“Those Capitol Police officers had on riot gear; we had normal gear,” he said.
“They pushed us back. I was pushing so hard I slipped on the tile floor,” Dixon said. At that time, he was asked to fire a pepper ball, which he did.
“There was a lot of hand-to-hand combat,” he said.
The rioters were hitting the officers with signs mounted to metal poles and hitting them with flag poles.
After the pepper balls ran out, “there was more hand-to-hand combat,” he said.
He said he saw Capitol Police using stuff to barricade the doors and windows to keep the rioters out.
“We’re barricading ourselves in, and so many more rioters outside were trying to get in. This was not a good sign,” Dixon said.
He saw police officers that were definitely hurt and the crowd was throwing stuff – something – “a rock?” was thrown but missed hitting him.
“It was definitely a stressful event,” Dixon said.
All told, Dixon and his fellow officers were at the Capitol for about 10 hours. After the area was cleared, the officers didn’t leave immediately in case the rioters returned.
His eyes and nose were irritated from breathing in the chemicals. He said he was wearing his Covid-19 mask and it was yellow from the chemicals, but it probably saved him from breathing in more.
Dixon said he didn’t require any medical help after the riot. The next day he said he was pretty sore from all of the physical combat and “we checked on each other to see if everybody was ok.
“A lot of us were sore,” he said.
Dixon said the event was traumatic, but as a police officer, this was part of the job. He was not seriously injured but he saw officers who were.
He said when they were inside on the first floor, he was alarmed at the glass shattering and rioters climbing through windows.
As a police officer, “we see a lot of crazy things and this will go down as one of the craziest,” he said.
It’s an event Dixon said he will never forget.
Commendations were given
Dixon received a Ribbon of Valor on October 8 along with 21 other officers, four sergeants and one detective from the Metro Transit Police Department. They were formally recognized for their response and efforts in resecuring the United States Capitol Building on January 6, 2021.
The Ribbon of Valor was presented by Chief Robert J. Contee of the Metropolitan Police Department, and Acting Chief Michael L Anzallo, of the Metro Transit Police Department awarded each a Certificate of Recognition.
The ceremony was held at the Jackson Graham Building, which is the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority headquarters in D.C.