Two Men Charged with Assaulting Capitol Officer Sicknick, Cause of Death Still Unknown

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The remains of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick are carried into the hearse after a ceremony in the Rotunda of the Capitol in Washington, DC, February 3, 2021. (Michael Reynolds/Pool via Reuters)

Federal investigators charged two men with assaulting U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick during the January 6 Capitol riot, though Sicknick’s cause of death remains unknown.

George Tanios and Julian Khater — of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, respectively — were arrested Sunday and slated to appear in federal court Monday. Multiple media reports initially indicated that Sicknick was “murdered” by rioters after being struck with a fire extinguisher, though investigators now believe that Sicknick may have died as a result of exposure to bear spray, according to the Associated Press.

The AP also reported that Sicknick’s autopsy is “incomplete” and the Capitol Police are awaiting the toxicology results to get a clearer picture.

Court records reference video evidence to make the case that Khater sprayed Sicknick and other officers with what “appears to be a can of chemical spray.”

“All react, one by one, to something striking them in the face. The officers immediately retreat from the line, bring their hands to their faces and rush to find water to wash out their eyes,” the criminal complaint reads.

A sworn affidavit from the FBI special agent on the case stated that “all three officers were incapacitated and unable to perform their duties for at least 20 minutes or longer while they recovered from the spray.” Officers recounted to the agent that the substance was “as strong as, if not stronger than, any version of pepper spray they had been exposed to during their training as law enforcement officers.”

Sicknick’s family has said publicly that they wish Brian’s death had not become “a political issue,” and that they assumed he had suffered a stroke. Sicknick’s mother Gladys told the Daily Mail that details of her son’s death were still unclear and that “we’d love to know what happened.”

Sicknick’s eldest brother Ken recounted to ProPublica last month that his brother had texted him after the day’s events to say he was doing alright.

“He texted me last night and said, ‘I got pepper-sprayed twice,’ and he was in good shape,” Ken Sicknick said. “Apparently, he collapsed in the Capitol, and they resuscitated him using CPR.”

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