Capitol officer’s cause of death revealed months after riot

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was injured while confronting rioters during the Jan. 6 insurrection, 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 the officer 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. The determination is likely to significantly inhibit the ability of federal prosecutors to bring homicide charges in Sicknick’s death.

  • FILE – In this Feb. 2, 2021, file photo a placard is displayed with an image of the late U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick on it as people wait for an urn with his cremated remains to be carried into the U.S. Capitol to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington. Federal investigators probing the death Sicknick, a U.S. Capitol Police officer killed in the Jan. 6 riot, have zeroed in on a suspect seen on video appearing to spray a chemical substance on the officer before he later collapsed and died, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP, File)
  • The United States Capitol Police seal appears on the side of a bus parked near the headquarters on February 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Capitol Police announced Thursday that it has suspended six officers with pay and placed an additional 29 officers under investigation for their actions during the January 6 insurrectionist attack on the Capitol, which resulted in Officer Brian Sicknick’s death. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
  • WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 3: Members of the Capitol Police pay respects before a ceremony memorializing U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick, 42, as he lies in honor in the Rotunda of the Capitol on Wednesday, February 3, 2021 in Washington DC. Officer Sicknick died as a result of injuries he sustained during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. He will lie in honor until February 3 and then be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski – Pool/Getty Images)
  • Mourners pay their respects during a Congressional tribute to the late Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick who lies in honor in the Rotunda of the US Capitol building on February 3, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by KEVIN DIETSCH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
  • Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-NY, delivers remarks during the memorial service for U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick, as he lies in honor in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, DC, U.S, February 3, 2021. Kevin Dietsch/Pool via REUTERS
  • A man kneels as he pays his respects to late US Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick as he lies in honor in the US Capitol Rotunda in Washington, DC February 2, 2021. – The US Capitol police officer who died after being injured in the January 6 attack by pro-Trump rioters will lie in honor at the building’s Rotunda, a mark of respect rarely bestowed.
    Brian Sicknick was reportedly struck in the head with a fire extinguisher while struggling with the rioters who swarmed through the halls of Congress. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / POOL / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
  • Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died from his injuries suffered in the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 (Nexstar)
  • Pictured: Officer Brian Sicknick, Ashli Babbitt, and Kevin Greeson. Not pictured: Rosanne Boyland and Benjamin Philips.
  • A bird is seen inside the Rotunda which will hold Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick’s remains while he lays in honor after he died during the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol Building by a pro-Trump mob on Capitol Hill February 2, 2021, in Washington, DC. – Brian Sicknick was reportedly struck in the head with a fire extinguisher while struggling with the rioters who swarmed through the halls of Congress. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
  • A US Capitol Police Officer stands at the door of the Capitol Rotunda where fellow officer Brian Sicknick, 42, will lie in honor in Washington, February 2, 2021. – The US Capitol police officer who died after being injured in the January 6 attack by pro-Trump rioters will lie in honor at the building’s Rotunda, a mark of respect rarely bestowed.
    Brian Sicknick was reportedly struck in the head with a fire extinguisher while struggling with the rioters who swarmed through the halls of Congress. (Photo by Salwan Georges / POOL / AFP) (Photo by SALWAN GEORGES/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
  • US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden pay their respects to late US Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, as he lies in honor in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, DC February 2, 2021. – Sicknick died on January 7 from injuries he sustained while protecting the US Capitol during the January 6 attack on the building (Photo by Salwan GEORGES / POOL / AFP) (Photo by SALWAN GEORGES/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
  • FILE – In this Feb. 2, 2021, file photo a placard is displayed with an image of the late U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick on it as people wait for an urn with his cremated remains to be carried into the U.S. Capitol to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington. Federal investigators probing the death Sicknick, a U.S. Capitol Police officer killed in the Jan. 6 riot, have zeroed in on a suspect seen on video appearing to spray a chemical substance on the officer before he later collapsed and died, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP, File)
  • A memorial for Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick is visible near the Capitol Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. Officer Sicknick was killed by rioters in last Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol Building. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

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 January 6, who risked their lives to defend our democracy.”

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, West Virginia, 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 Capitol.

“Give me that bear shit,” Khater said before he reached into Tanios’ backpack, according to court papers. 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 5 to 8 feet from the officers, authorities said.

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

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