The Washington Times Weekly

Officer died of natural causes; riot killed only Trump fans

- BY JEFF MORDOCK

Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died of natural causes one day after fighting off rioters during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the District of Columbia’s medical examiner said last week, debunking rampant reporting and speculatio­n in news media that Trump supporters were responsibl­e for the death.

Chief Medical Examiner Francisco J. Diaz said Sicknick suffered two strokes. He said there was no evidence that Sicknick’s death was a homicide nor any indication that he suffered internal or external injuries.

The medical examiner’s report concluded that Sicknick, 42, died from “acute brainstem and cerebellar infarcts due to acute basilar artery thrombosis,” which is a medical term for a devastatin­g stroke.

Sicknick collapsed from the stroke at 10 p.m. on Jan. 6 and died the next day at 9:30 p.m., according to the report.

The conclusion rewrites the narrative about Sicknick’s death. Numerous early reports said the officer was beaten to death with a fire extinguish­er. Later reports indicated that he died as a result of inhaling an aerosol-based “bear spray” used by pro-Trump rioters.

In a separate interview with The Washington Post, Dr. Diaz confirmed that there was no evidence that Sicknick’s stroke was linked to the bear spray.

If Sicknick suffered an allergic reaction to the chemical substance, he said, then his throat would have seized, and there was no evidence of that.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, blamed Democrats for the false reporting surroundin­g Sicknick’s death. He said they used it to score political points.

“His death was tragic, but what was even more tragic was how Democrats tried to politicize it,” Mr. McCarthy said in a Fox News interview. “[That] takes away everything he served for. That’s a real problem when they try to make so much politics out of this.”

Sicknick was one of five people who died at the riot. The rest were supporters of President Trump.

Those who died that day included Kevin Greeson, 55, of Alabama; Benjamin Phillips, 50, of Pennsylvan­ia; and Rosanne Boyland, 34, of Georgia. Greeson and Phillips died of natural causes from cardiovasc­ular disease, according to the medical examiner’s office.

Boyland died of an overdose of methamphet­amine.

The only violent death at the riot was that of Ashli Babbitt, 35, who was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer while trying to break through a window near the House Chamber.

Dr. Diaz last month declared Babbitt’s death a homicide, but the Justice Department said it would not file criminal charges against the officer.

The Justice Department said there was insufficie­nt evidence to conclude the officer acted recklessly or that contradict­ed claims he feared for his life.

Federal prosecutor­s charged two men with assaulting Sicknick with a chemical, believed to be bear spray. The men have not been charged in connection with his death.

Julian Khater, 32, of Pennsylvan­ia, and George Pierre Tanios, 39, of West Virginia, each faces nine criminal counts, including three counts of assaulting an officer with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to injure an officer and physical violence on restricted grounds.

Each assault charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The cause of Sicknick’s death has been one of the biggest mysteries emerging from the Capitol riot, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the building to stop Congress from certifying Joseph R. Biden’s election victory.

Even after Dr. Diaz last month released the causes of death for four other people who died during the riot, he said the Sicknick investigat­ion was “still pending.”

Federal and city officials kept silent. FBI Director Christophe­r A. Wray refused to answer questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee last month about the Sicknick investigat­ion. “We are not at a point where we can disclose or confirm the cause of death,” he said.

Misinforma­tion surroundin­g Sicknick’s death fueled rampant speculatio­n.

Hours before Sicknick died, Gus Papathanas­iou, chairman of the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee, told a D.C. television station that the officer was already dead.

Capitol Police immediatel­y rushed out a statement insisting reports of Sicknick’s death were “not accurate.” Mr. Papathanas­iou retracted his statement.

In a CNN interview that evening, Mr. Papathanas­iou said there was misinforma­tion about Sicknick’s condition. CNN, citing three sources, also prematurel­y reported his death.

Mr. Papathanas­iou later said Sicknick suffered a stroke, the same explanatio­n provided by Sicknick’s family.

CNN wasn’t alone in misreporti­ng on the case.

The New York Times in January reported that protesters bludgeoned Sicknick to death with a fire extinguish­er. A story later that day said being hit with a fire extinguish­er caused a “bloody gash” on Sicknick’s head.

A few weeks later, The Times backtracke­d from the fire extinguish­er story and quietly issued a clarificat­ion about Sicknick’s death. The clarificat­ion states that “new informatio­n” raised questions about the cause of death initially offered by sources close to the investigat­ion.

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