July 25, 2021

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Officer Brian Sicknick Died After the Capitol Riot. New Videos Show How He Was Attacked. – The New York Times

5 min read

New videos obtained by The New York Times show publicly for the first time how the U.S. Capitol Police officer who died after facing off with rioters on Jan. 6 was attacked with chemical spray.

The officer, Brian D. Sicknick, who had been guarding the west side of the Capitol, collapsed later that day and died the next night. Little had been known about what happened to Officer Sicknick during the assault, and the previously unpublished videos provide new details about when, where and how he was attacked, as well as about the events leading up to the encounter.

The New York Times/Here And There Media

Two rioters, Julian Elie Khater and George Pierre Tanios, were arrested on March 14 and charged with assaulting Officer Sicknick and two other officers with chemical spray. The investigation is continuing, and federal prosecutors haven’t ruled out pursuing murder charges.

Here’s what the videos show.

Mr. Khater and Mr. Tanios arrive near the police line on the west side of the Capitol at 2:09 p.m., more than an hour into the battle between rioters and police officers, according to an F.B.I. affidavit. An independent video journalist at the scene films Mr. Khater shortly after he arrives. Mr. Khater observes the fighting as tear gas and chemical spray waft through the crowd, then turns back toward where Mr. Tanios is standing.

Here And There Media

At 2:14 p.m., he and Mr. Tanios huddle just a few yards from the police line, according to the F.B.I. Part of their conversation is captured in a separate video.

“Give me that bear shit,” Mr. Khater tells Mr. Tanios, most likely referring to a canister of bear repellent spray that prosecutors say Mr. Tanios purchased earlier that day.

He appears to retrieve something from Mr. Tanios’s backpack. After Mr. Tanios tells him to wait, Mr. Khater responds, “They just sprayed me.” He holds a white spray canister in his right hand.

The Convo Couch

On Monday, federal prosecutors alleged in court that Mr. Khater and Mr. Tanios were carrying Frontiersman bear spray, which is manufactured by Sabre, a company that makes self-defense products including pepper spray and stun guns. Though made from the same ingredient, bear spray can be many times more powerful than pepper sprays sold for self-defense and is not meant for use on humans.

Images of the bear spray sold by Sabre appear to be similar to the canister seen in Mr. Khater’s hand at one point in the video.

The Convo Couch/Sabre

By 2:20 p.m., six minutes later, Mr. Khater has returned to the police line, where Officer Sicknick and his colleagues are standing behind a row of bike rack barricades. He stands just a few feet from Officer Sicknick, who can be seen wearing a blue Capitol Police jacket, bicycle helmet and black coronavirus face mask.

Here And There Media

For about two minutes, Mr. Khater waits in the crowd, observing the police. Then, at 2:23 p.m., rioters try to pull the bike racks away from the officers. As a lieutenant in a white uniform fires a spray into the crowd, and a rioter charges in to attack a Metropolitan Police officer, Mr. Khater raises his arm over other rioters and sprays something toward Officer Sicknick.

A thin stream of liquid is visible shooting from a canister in Mr. Khater’s hand. It is unclear in the video what Mr. Khater is firing, and prosecutors have alleged that Mr. Tanios brought two smaller canisters of pepper spray to the Capitol in addition to two cans of Frontiersman bear spray.

Officer Sicknick reacts immediately to the spray, turning and raising his hand.

Here And There Media/FBI

In court on Monday, prosecutors played body camera footage of the incident for the first time. The grainy videos showed Mr. Khater raising his hand and discharging a chemical spray at the officers, who stumble back, cover their eyes and at times call out in pain. The Metropolitan Police Department has declined to release that footage to the public.

A series of still images shot by a Times photographer captured the same moment. They show Officer Sicknick retreat, bend over and try to wash out his eyes and face with water.

Kenneth Holston for The New York Times

The last time Officer Sicknick appears in the videos or the photographs, he is bent over by the scaffolding erected for President Biden’s upcoming inauguration.

The attack on Officer Sicknick and his colleagues comes at a key moment. Within five minutes, the police line collapses, officers retreat into the Capitol and rioters gain control over the west side of the building. Some officers regroup to guard a key doorway, where they will fight a brutal battle that lasts for more than two hours, during which a mob will drag at least four officers into the crowd and beat them.

After the police have retreated, the footage shows Mr. Khater and Mr. Tanios once more, standing back from the crowd. Mr. Khater is seen talking to two unknown men wearing tactical vests and can be heard discussing what the mob should do next.

Here And There Media


p class=”g-body “> Officer Sicknick collapsed later that day after returning to his division office and was taken to a local hospital, according to the Capitol Police. That night, he texted his brother to say he had been “pepper-sprayed” but was in “good shape,” his brother told ProPublica. At some point over the next 24 hours, Officer Sicknick’s condition apparently deteriorated. He was put on a ventilator and treated for a blood clot and a stroke, his brother said. He died at about 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 7.

Another Capitol Police officer who was standing next to Officer Sicknick during the attack told investigators that she still had burn scabs under her eyes from the spray three weeks after Jan. 6.

Washington’s chief medical examiner has yet to release Officer Sicknick’s autopsy or cause of death. Michael R. Sherwin, who as acting U.S. attorney in Washington had been leading the Capitol riot investigations, told “60 Minutes” that if evidence connected the chemicals sprayed at Officer Sicknick with his death, “that’s a murder case.”

Reporting was contributed by Alan Feuer. Research was contributed by Sheelagh McNeill.

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