Potentially shining a light on why prosecutors have not yet leveled homicide charges against accused rioters, the D.C. Medical Examiner’s Office reportedly released a ruling on Monday finding that Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died of natural causes after suffering two strokes the day after the Jan. 6th siege.
First reported by the Washington Post, the newly public ruling was revealed a little more than a month after two members of the pro-Trump mob, George Tanios and Julian Khater, were first charged with assaulting Sicknick by spraying him in the face with chemical irritants. Prosecutors never alleged that the bear spray they allegedly used played a role in Sicknick’s death.
D.C. Medical Examiner Francisco J. Diaz told the Post that the autopsy found no evidence that Sicknick had an allergic reaction to the spray and disclosed to the paper that he did not find evidence of internal or external injuries.
However, Diaz added that Sicknick having been among the officers who engaged with the Capitol mob “played a role in his condition.”
His office’s statement about the autopsy report adds to that apparent disconnect.
“On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, an unprecedented incident of civil insurrection at the United States Capitol resulted in the deaths of five individuals,” the statement reads. “The District of Columbia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Francisco J. Diaz, MD, FACP, issued determinations on April 7 as to the cause and manner of death for four of those individuals and today issues the cause and manner of death of the remaining individual.”
Despite suggesting the siege of the Capitol “resulted in” Sicknick’s death, its cause is listed as “acute brainstem and cerebellar infarcts due to acute basilar artery thrombosis” and manner is listed as “natural.”
The report’s release highlights the shifting understanding of the officer’s death since the day after the riot. Early reports attributed Sicknick’s death with being hit by a fire extinguisher, and investigators subsequently shared their suspicions with the New York Times that a chemical irritant like bear spray may have been to blame. That speculation led some to express surprise that prosecutors stopped short of accusing Tanios and Khater of causing Sicknick’s death, despite charging assault with the chemical spray.
“Give me that bear shit,” Khater allegedly told Tanios, as recounted in court papers.
The publicly disclosed timeline of events records Sicknick being sprayed at 2:20 p.m. Eastern Time.
Sicknick collapsed at the Capitol around 10 p.m. that evening on Jan. 6th, before being pronounced dead at a local hospital at 9:30 p.m. the following night.
In justifying pre-trial detention for Tanios, Magistrate Judge Michael John Aloi avoided the question entirely and spoke only of the suspect’s alleged attack on the Capitol in general terms.
“It is hard for me to look at this as anything other than an assault on this nation’s heart,” Aloi said in March.
Congress held a tribute to the officer, having him lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda, on Feb. 2.
Tanios’s public defender did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
(Brian Sicknick via Capitol Police)
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