US authorities have arrested and charged two men with assaulting US Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick with bear spray during the January 6 Capitol riot but have not determined whether the exposure caused his death.
Julian Elie Khater (32), of Pennsylvania, and George Pierre Tanios (39), of Morgantown, West Virginia, were arrested on Sunday and due to appear in federal court yesterday.
“Give me that bear s***,” Mr Khater allegedly said to Mr Tanios on video recorded at the Lower West Terrace of the Capitol at 2.14pm, where Mr Sicknick and other officers were standing guard behind metal bicycle racks, arrest papers say.
About nine minutes later, after Mr Khater said he had been hit with bear spray, Mr Khater is seen on video discharging a canister into the face of Mr Sicknick and two other officers, arrest papers allege.
Mr Khater and Mr Tanios are charged with nine counts including assaulting Mr Sicknick, a US Capitol Police officer identified as C Edwards and a DC police officer identified as B Chapman, with a deadly weapon. They are also charged with civil disorder and obstruction of a Congressional proceeding. The charges are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors filed charges after tipsters contacted the FBI allegedly identifying Mr Khater and Mr Tanios from wanted images released by the Bureau from surveillance video and officer-worn body camera footage, the complaint said. It said the men grew up together in New Jersey, and that Mr Khater had worked in State College, Pennsylvania, and Mr Tanios owns a business in Morgantown.
Still, questions remain about whether anyone will be held criminally responsible in connection with Mr Sicknick’s death. Without a cause of death, his case has not been established as a homicide, although charging papers allege evidence of an assault on Mr Sicknick is clear on video.
Mr Sicknick died at a hospital at about 9.30pm on January 7, one day after 139 police officers were reportedly assaulted by an angry mob of Trump supporters wielding sledge hammers, baseball bats, hockey sticks, crutches and flagpoles. At least 800 people entered the Capitol after a smaller number forced entry, police have testified, seeking to block Congress from confirming the November presidential election victory of Joe Biden.
Mr Sicknick (42), who grew up in South River, New Jersey, became the third officer to lie in honour in the Capitol Rotunda in early February, where fellow officers, lawmakers and President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden came to pay respects to the 13-year US Capitol Police veteran and former New Jersey Air National Guard member.
Authorities have included Mr Sicknick among five people who died as a result of the riot. The four others were civilians – Ashli Babbitt (35), who was shot by an officer, and three others died in the chaos.
Referring to Mr Sicknick, a House-passed article of impeachment charged Mr Trump with inciting insurrection, alleging that members of a crowd he addressed “injured and killed law enforcement personnel”.
Mr Trump was acquitted after 57 Senators voted to convict him for inciting the attack, 10 short of the two-thirds majority needed.
Still, how Mr Sicknick was injured had not been made clear.
Then-acting US attorney general Jeffrey Rosen said in a statement shortly afterward that Mr Sicknick died of “the injuries he suffered defending the US Capitol”, echoing a statement by Capitol Police.
The Capitol Police said that Mr Sicknick “was injured while physically engaging with protesters” and collapsed after he had returned to his office following the riot.
© Washington Post