In his first public remarks since the Jan. 6, 2001, attack on Congress, Capitol police officer Eugene Goodman — widely hailed as a hero for his actions that day — credited his military training with helping him stay calm and focused during the violence.
“I wasn’t thinking about the military while I was in that moment, but it definitely came together for me,” he said during an episode of the 3 Brothers No Sense podcast released Monday. “I was just in go mode.”
Goodman, who served in the Army from 2002 to 2006 and deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division, was stationed outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 when protestors supporting President Donald Trump started to advance on the building.
As the crowd began to defy and attack law enforcement personnel, Goodman was sent inside to provide security on the floor below the Senate chamber. When the rioters entered the building, Goodman retreated to the second floor, leading the crowd away from the Senate chamber and into an area with additional police officers.
Senate officials were securing the Senate chamber at the time, and have praised Goodman’s actions as providing extra time to protect senators and their staff.
In a video of the incident released by HuffPost shortly after the attack, Goodman can be seen reaching for his firearm but then opting to misdirect the advancing crowd rather than escalate the violence.
“In any situation like that, you want to de-escalate,” he said on the podcast. “But at the same time, you want to survive first … It could have easily been a bloodbath.”
Several people died during violence that day, including Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran who was shot attempting to force her way onto the House floor in defiance of police orders.
Goodman said his time in the military (along with his law enforcement experience) helped him stay calm amid the rising chaos.
“If you’ve ever been in the military, if you’ve ever deployed and done any sort of mission, you know that you plan and do up orders and all of that,” he said. “But all the raids and stuff I went on, nothing ever went to plan, ever. We ended up just having to wing it.
“What that taught me more than anything, especially being in the Army, was to think on the fly. And I thank my platoon sergeants for that … My platoon sergeant used to say ‘figure it out or die.’”
During his appearance on the podcast (hosted by a friend and co-worker of Goodman), the now-well-known officer said he is still somewhat uncomfortable with his fame, and cognizant that some individuals will view him as a political opponent simply for doing his job.
“I have my ups and downs with the popularity,” he said. “You have to take the bad with the good .. That’s mostly why I haven’t been doing interviews, because I just don’t want any parts of the negativity.
“But [on Jan. 6 this year] people started sending all these tweets saying ‘Happy Eugene Goodman Day.’ And I was like, wow, that’s a bit too much.”
The hosts of the podcast joked that Goodman needs to get used to that, because “you’re gonna trend every year.”
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.