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U.S. Capitol police officer died of a stroke unrelated to Jan. 6 siege, says medical examiner

A U.S. Capitol police officer who was confronted by rioters during the Jan. 6 raid suffered a stroke and died from natural causes, the Washington, D.C., medical examiner's office ruled Monday, a finding that lessens the chances that anyone will be charged in his death.

Ruling in Brian Sicknick's death means it is less likely anyone will be charged

U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died Jan. 7, 2021, a day after he was among the officers attempting to defend the Capitol against rioters storming the building. It was initially thought he died of injuries sustained in the riot, but the D.C. medical examiner ruled Monday that he died of a stroke, meaning it is less likely anyone will be charged with his death. (U.S. Capitol Police/The Associated Press)

A U.S. Capitol police officer who was confronted by rioters during the Jan. 6 raid suffered a stroke and died from natural causes, the Washington, D.C., medical examiner's office ruled Monday, a finding that lessens the chances that anyone will be charged in his death.

Investigators initially believed officer Brian Sicknick was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher, based on statements collected early in the investigation, according to two people familiar with the case. And they later thought the 42-year-old Sicknick may have ingested a chemical substance — possibly bear spray — that may have contributed to his death.

But the determination of a natural cause of death means the medical examiner found that a medical condition alone caused his death — it was not brought on by an injury. There was also no evidence of internal or external injuries, the medical examiner told The Washington Post.

The determination is likely to significantly inhibit the ability of federal prosecutors to bring homicide charges in Sicknick's death.

U.S. Capitol Police said that the agency accepted the medical examiner's findings but that the ruling didn't change the fact that Sicknick had died in the line of duty, "courageously defending Congress and the Capitol."

"The attack on our officers, including Brian, was an attack on our democracy," police officials said in a statement. "The United States Capitol Police will never forget Officer Sicknick's bravery, nor the bravery of any officer on Jan. 6 who risked their lives to defend our democracy."

Rioters loyal to former U.S. president Donald Trump, who had urged supporters to 'fight like hell' to overturn his election loss, try to open a door of the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 siege. (Jose Luis Magana/The Associated Press)

2 men charged with using bear spray on Sicknick 

Federal prosecutors have charged two men with using bear spray on Sicknick during the Jan. 6 riot. The arrests of George Tanios, 39, of Morgantown, W.Va., and Julian Khater, 32, of Pennsylvania, were the closest federal prosecutors have come to identifying and charging anyone associated with the five deaths that happened during and after the riot.

Lawyers for the two men had no immediate comment Monday.

Sicknick died after defending the Capitol against the mob that stormed the building as Congress was voting to certify Joe Biden's electoral win over Donald Trump. It came after Trump urged his supporters to "fight like hell" to overturn his defeat.

Sicknick was standing guard with other officers behind metal bicycle racks as the mob descended on the U.S. Capitol.

"Give me that bear shit," Khater said before he reached into Tanios's backpack, according to court documents. Tanios told Khater "not yet" because it was "still early," but Khater responded that "they just f---ing sprayed me." Khater was then seen holding a can of chemical spray, prosecutors say.

As the rioters began pulling on one of the racks, Khater was seen with his arm in the air and the canister in his hand while standing just 1.5 to 2.5 metres from the officers, authorities said.

In February, Sicknick became only the fifth person in history to lie in honour in the Capitol Rotunda, a designation for those who are not elected officials, judges or military leaders. He was interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said U.S. Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick was injured while being confronted by rioters. The story has been updated to reflect more recent comments from the medical examiner.
    May 03, 2021 6:12 PM ET

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