- AffiliationU.S. Capitol Police
On Jan. 6, 2021, rioters angered by the defeat of Donald Trump marched on the U.S. Capitol to demand that Congress overturn the presidential election results—then breached the building, overwhelming the outnumbered and underprepared Capitol Police. Five people died as a result of the ensuing melee, but the number might well have been higher if not for Eugene Goodman.
Goodman, a Washington, D.C., native who led a U.S. Army squad in combat in Iraq, joined the Capitol Police in 2009. As the insurrectionists made their way through the building, Goodman found himself as the only officer standing between a large group of rioters and the Senate chamber, which hadn’t yet been evacuated. Goodman goaded the group into following him in the opposite direction, away from the chamber—averting what likely would have been a far more frenzied clash between the rioters and officers guarding the unarmed senators and their aides. Video of Goodman’s actions was viewed by millions, and he emerged as a symbol of sanity and public service at a moment when American democracy reached a near nadir. The Senate voted unanimously to award Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal; Goodman, who has largely sought to avoid public attention, said that he would “do the same thing again.”