Over three months after he died in the immediate aftermath of the insurrection on January 6, the chief medical officer for the District of Columbia has ruled that Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick suffered two strokes a day after the attack, not injuries inflicted by rioters as other officials previously claimed.
In an interview with the Washington Post, medical examiner Francisco J. Diaz said that the autopsy found no evidence that Sicknick showed signs of internal or external injuries, and that there was no evidence that he suffered an allergic reaction to chemical irritants, which would have caused his throat to close up. Though Diaz did note that the events that “transpired played a role in his condition,” the ruling will make it unlikely that prosectors will pursue homicide charges against two men already charged with assaulting Sicknick with bear spray.
The autopsy results and examiner’s report contradict the federal government’s portrayal of Sicknick’s death. On January 8, then acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said that the officer “died of the injuries he suffered defending the U.S. Capitol,” adding that federal authorities would “spare no resources in investigating and holding accountable those responsible.” Though two other Capitol Police officers died by suicide in the days after the attack, Sicknick was presented for a time as the only member of the force tasked with protecting Congress to die from injuries he sustained on January 6: The Capitol Police itself previously stated that he “was injured while physically engaging with protesters.” During that period, an anonymous law-enforcement official told the New York Times that Sicknick had been bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher. The medical examiner’s report, however, found no evidence of internal or external injuries.
The finding may fuel right-wing revisionism of the attack on the Capitol as well. Over the past three months, many Republicans and conservative pundits have dismissed the Capitol riot — in which violent Trump supporters came within feet of lawmakers (whom some of the rioters had threatened to kill) in the halls of Congress — as an unserious attack, while some Republican voters introduced conspiracy theories alleging that leftist agitators actually led the storming of the Capitol grounds. Only one person, the insurrectionist and Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt, was killed in the attack itself by a Capitol police officer, who fatally shot her trying to gain entry to a House chamber corridor.
Though the assault on the Capitol is approaching its four-month anniversary, new information on the riot on January 6 is still coming to light. Last week, the inspector general for the U.S. Capitol Police determined that the force’s leaders did not respond to early warnings of potential violence and that officers were ordered not to use their most serious crowd-control tactics as the conflict heated up. As of last week, 400 people have been charged for their role in the event.