U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick suffered two strokes and died of natural causes a day after the Jan. 6 Capitol breach, the D.C. Medical Examiner’s office confirmed on April 19, ending speculation that he was beaten to death by Trump supporters.
Sicknick’s Jan. 7 death was natural, caused by strokes, according to Francisco J. Diaz, chief medical examiner for Washington.
Diaz’s office said in a timeline that Sicknick was sprayed with a chemical substance outside the U.S. Capitol at approximately 2:20 p.m. on Jan. 6. He collapsed at the Capitol at 10 p.m. and was taken to a local hospital.
Sicknick died at 9:30 p.m. the next day.
Diaz told The Washington Post that Sicknick did not suffer from an allergic reaction after being sprayed with chemical irritants as he engaged with the crowd at the Capitol.
The examiner said he found no evidence of internal or external injuries, but he added that “all that transpired played a role in his condition.” Diaz didn’t elaborate, citing privacy laws.
Two men are accused of assaulting Sicknick by spraying a chemical irritant—possibly bear mace—during the Capitol breach. But Diaz told the paper there’s no evidence suggesting Sicknick suffered an allergic reaction, saying that such a reaction would have caused the officer’s throat to close.
The D.C. Medical Examiner’s office has not responded to requests for comment.
Sicknick, 42, collapsed and died hours after returning to the office on Jan. 7, Diaz said. He suffered two strokes at the base of his brain stem, the examiner said, which was caused by a clot in an artery that provides blood to that part of his brain. It isn’t clear whether Sicknick had a medical condition that would cause that.
With the development, prosecutors will likely have a much harder time pursuing homicide charges related to Sicknick’s death.
Then-Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen stated on Jan. 8 that the officer died of “injuries he suffered defending the U.S. Capitol,” and added that an investigation was underway, while the Capitol Police said Sicknick died as he was “engaging with protesters.”
Days after the riots, The New York Times and other news outlets—citing anonymous sources—reported that Sicknick had been beaten with a fire extinguisher. Those reports were updated weeks later to say that his cause of death, at the time, was not determined. The allegation that Sicknick was murdered by protesters was invoked numerous times during the Democrat-led impeachment against former President Donald Trump.
Julian Elie Khater, 32, of Pennsylvania, and George Pierre Tanios, 39, of Morgantown, West Virginia, were charged with assaulting Sicknick with a chemical spray, officials said in March.
According to court documents, prosecutors said that Khater told Tanios to “give me that bear [expletive],” possibly referring to bear spray, which is a nonlethal deterrent designed to stop aggressive behavior in bears and other wildlife. The documents then stated that Khater is seen in a video spraying a canister into the face of Sicknick and other officers.
Sicknick’s mother in late February disputed the account that her son was beaten.
“He wasn’t hit on the head, no. We think he had a stroke, but we don’t know anything for sure,” Gladys Sicknick told the Daily Mail in an exclusive interview on Feb. 22. “We’d love to know what happened.”
The U.S. Capitol Police said it accepts the findings from the medical examiner on Sicknick’s death.
“This does not change the fact Officer Sicknick died in the line of duty, courageously defending Congress and the Capitol. The Department continues to mourn the loss of our beloved colleague. The attack on our officers, including Brian, was an attack on our democracy,” it said in a statement.
“Working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, the F.B.I.’s Washington Field Office and the Metropolitan Police Department, the USCP will continue to ensure those responsible for the assault against officers are held accountable.”
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.