Rosanne Boyland was outside the United States Capitol on January 6. How and why did she die?

January 6 marks the first anniversary of the violent riots on the United States Capitol in which bands of pro-Trump insurgents attempted unsuccessfully to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s election. In December, MSNBC host Ayman Mohyeldin, a Vanity Show contributor, along with producer Preeti Varathan, posted a popular podcast, American radical, who explored the little-known story of Rosanne Boyland, one of at least five people who died in connection with the rampage. This story spans the many reports from the MSNBC team.

You’ve probably heard the name Ashli ​​Babbitt before. You heard how she was shot as she tried to walk through the doors leading to the chamber of the United States House of Representatives on January 6, 2021. You may have seen her image promoted as a martyr on social networks from afar. on the right, and elsewhere by the former president. You’ve probably heard of Capitol Hill Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who the day after trying to keep the rioters at bay suffered two strokes and died.

But you’ve probably never heard of Rosanne Boyland’s name.

Immediately after the assault on January 6, neither did I. It wasn’t until three days later that I got a message from an old high school friend named Justin Cave. The message was short and simple: “Ayman, I’m sure you’ve seen the news. I made a public statement regarding the death of my sister-in-law Rosanne from Kennesaw [Georgia] who died on Wednesday. at the Capitol. My wife and I think she got radicalized in a very short time in less than 6 months…. would you be ready to hear his story? “

I knew, of course, that people had is dead at the Capitol. But Justin Cave’s sister-in-law? And how did she get involved in all of this? What surprised me the most was a word Justin used: radicalized. What exactly did he mean by that? Radicalized in what? By who? And how had she radicalized so quickly?

So began an 11-month investigation into his life and death. When we told someone we were trying to figure out what happened to Rosanne Boyland, the most common response was, “Isn’t she the woman who was shot on Capitol Hill?”

No, Boyland was not shot on Capitol Hill on January 6. But the 34-year-old’s life would come to a tragic end on that day. And we found out that the circumstances surrounding his final months and minutes only recently became clear to his family and friends. Her story is a lens on the sometimes perilous path vulnerable people can take when they embrace extremist views altogether, losing a rational perspective, alienating loved ones and putting false hopes in conspiracy theories.

Rosanne’s brother-in-law and sister, Justin and Lonna Cave.

Photograph by Nicole Craine.

If you’ve watched the coverage of that day you will know how violent and dangerous the crowd was. Hours of footage from police body cameras, news feeds and cellphone videos reveal a disturbing picture: pitched battles, in which mobs attacked police with chemical irritants, projectiles, masts. flag and more; police retaliated by using their own chemical agents and brandishing batons at protesters in an attempt to keep them away from entry points. In the case of Ashli ​​Babbitt, we even fired live ammunition: Babbitt was violate a door at the time and, according to police, part of their mandate was to protect lawmakers in the House.

That day, intense fighting broke out on the west facade of the Capitol. This is the side of the Congress complex that has multi-level seating and where, in just a few weeks, Joe Biden would be inaugurated. Police had deployed reinforcements to consolidate the perimeter, but would not be able to hold this ground as waves of rioters continued to push, some of them trying to access a tunnel leading directly to the building. It was a battle scene, and the police were determined to defend the Legislative Fortress. In the audio of the riot, an officer can be heard shouting, “We are not losing the United States Capitol today. You hear me? We are not losing the United States Capitol! “

As the insurgents pushed their way through the tunnel, a group of officers gathered and pushed back the crowd. Among the riot group was a young man named Philip Anderson, a self-proclaimed free speech activist. He said there were about 50 people crammed into the entrance to the Capitol. And yet, in the midst of this melee, Anderson remembers seeing out of the corner of his eye a woman in the crowd.

“There’s only men, really, but she’s in the back, right there,” he said. “Hell breaks loose when the police start gas… and we can’t breathe. It wasn’t even tear gas … I turn around, run away as fast as I can, [and] collapse. Fall straight on my face … “

As the crowd retreated to escape the gas, many fell on top of each other. Anderson was crushed under a pile of around 30 people, he said. Next to him was this woman he had seen earlier. “She was screaming a little and screaming for help,” he recalls, “but then she shut up…. She was dying and she didn’t want to feel alone. So she grabs my hand and then lets go…. And when she lets go [of] my hand, I say to myself, I’m really going to die. She just died. I will die. Let go of me. Help, help, help!


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