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Five people died in the Capitol insurrection on January 6, including a Capitol Police officer.
But experts told Insider that the insurrection could have been much deadlier.
Experts said that swift thinking to bring Congress members and staff to safety likely saved lives.
One hundred feet and one minute.
The mob that overtook the US Capitol on January 6 was seconds away from seeing security whisk away then-Vice President Mike Pence, the Washington Post reported.
Many of the pro-Trump rioters were armed. Their goal that day, laid out in messages prosecutors have cited charging them with crimes, was to swarm the halls of government and keep Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's victory.
They shouted Pence's name and rifled through House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office.
After then-President Donald Trump riled them up at the "Stop the Steal" rally, hundreds forced their way into the Capitol, donning QAnon attire and waving a Confederate flag.
Some rioters got within yards of an unsecured Senate chamber and were just seconds away from running into Pence when Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman veered them in another direction.
Others encountered a barricaded House chamber door as authorities frantically tried to secure the space.
Lawmakers were eventually whisked away to secure rooms with their staff, but rioters continued to push through, and some made it to the Senate chamber - where they scaled down walls and sat at the dais where Pence had presided mere minutes before.
The day was bloody: Rioter Ashli Babbitt was fatally shot by a police officer as she tried to climb through a broken window, and multiple videos showed insurrectionists attacking overwhelmed police officers, including one, who was surrounded outside a Capitol entrance and beaten with flagpoles.
In total five people died in the Capitol insurrection, including one Capitol Police officer.
But experts told Insider that the insurrection could have been much deadlier if lawmakers hadn't been taken to safety.
"If insurrectionists had been able to get their hands on a member of Congress, particularly a member of Congress that has been vilified by right-wing media… I think you could most definitely have had bloodshed because people were so riled up and fueled with conspiracy theories and hatred," Devin Burghart, the executive director of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, a national watchdog group, told Insider.
Burghart said if more rioters made it inside the Capitol, or if Trump had walked with rioters to the building as he said he would, it would have been a "much more volatile situation."
"You could have literally had open air executions in Washington on January 6," he said. "It's clear from the rhetoric they were using inside the halls, their intentions, given things like a noose hanging out in front or the fact that they brought zip ties and weapons into the halls, it could have been disastrous."
Once expert says rioters never actually expected to gain access to the Capitol and were 'caught off guard and without a specific strategy'
At least 179 pro-Trump rioters have been charged in the Capitol insurrection so far.
Javed Ali, a former senior director for counterterrorism and the National Security Council, questioned why the riot didn't turn more violent.
"Was it because they couldn't find members of Congress and the vice president? Was it because law enforcement thankfully prevented them from doing it? Was it because they had a change of heart at some point in the middle of their time in the building? I just don't think we know yet," Ali said.
"But it absolutely had the potential to be more violent and I'm surprised it wasn't, not only from that end of the spectrum, but from the law enforcement side, too."
Capitol Police have come under fire for their response to the insurrection. They were largely overwhelmed by rioters, and video showed some officers taking selfies with the insurrectionists and letting them through gates.
Tamara Herold, a crime scientist and director of the Crowd Management Research Council, told Insider that some rioters likely never believed they'd actually breach the capitol.
"I think most rioters were caught off-guard and without a specific strategy, which likely prevented greater harm from occurring," she said, adding that police actions may have saved lives: "Attempting to hold and redirect the crowd as long as possible to allow evacuation and the arrival of additional police personnel, without resorting to deadly violence (with one exception), likely prevented provoking rioters into using greater levels of deadly force."
Several military members and law enforcement officers were among rioters charged in the insurrection
Several former military members and retired or off-duty law-enforcement officers - people who are often taught how to use force for their careers - are among rioters who have been charged.
Three members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right extremist group that recruits former military and police, have been charged with conspiracy in the insurrection, and a charging document showed men planning to storm the Capitol days in advance.
Burghart told Insider that he wasn't surprised to see former military members and off-duty police officers being arrested and put on leave in connection the insurrection.
"It certainly is worrisome in the current context that you have law enforcement officers who don't know the difference between right and wrong and willing to participate in a seditious act like trying to overthrow election results and engage in a bloody interaction," he said.
And while law enforcement agencies have said they had "no intelligence" that an insurrection would happen, there were warning signs that Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally would descend into violence.
Groups at the center of the riot had spoken about the insurrection online, and members of several well-known hate groups were identified as being at the riot.
Furthermore, the New York Police Department and FBI's Norfolk field office also sent Capitol Police and the FBI intelligence that violence was possible on January 6, including specific threats and plans, NPR and the Washington Post reported.
Members of Congress want the insurrection investigated
The US House of Representatives opened an investigation into the insurrection, and lawmakers from both parties have stressed how serious the insurrection was.
Democratic Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she thought she was going to die during the riot in an hour-long Instagram live, while Republican Rep. John Katko told Syracuse.com that the insurrection was "much worse than people realized."
"There are a lot of unanswered questions here, from possible security lapses to who was involved and when they were involved," Katko told the publication. "We need to have a full stem to stern look back on this to see what happened, how it happened, the sequence of events, who contributed to it, and how we make sure it never happens again."
Seven Democratic senators are also calling for an ethics probe into Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, and whether their actions to object to the election results contributed to the insurrection.
The Department of Justice, too, has started an internal review into the attack.
Ali told Insider that the Biden administration should take steps to prevent further insurrections from happening in the coming years.
He said there needs to be stricter domestic terrorism laws, as well as a commission on domestic terrorism, and said there need to more internal resources for government agencies to investigate and prevent such acts.
Herold told Insider that there should be a "thorough review" into what happened, and changes in leadership, policy, and training protocols "should be guided by the investigatory outcomes and thoughtful discussions with experts moving forward."
Burghart told Insider that the effort to shut down further possible insurrections lies not only in the hands of the Biden administration, but everyone.
"I think it requires concerted national efforts to de-radicalize these folks and to have them disengage and start getting back to all of us talking about who and what we are as a nation in the 21st Century, living up to our real core democratic values rather than allowing the kind of conspiracism and anti-democratic ideas to flourish," he said. "That's going to require a concerted effort by all Americans to change the tone and tenor of our nation moving forward."
Read the original article on Business Insider