Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick case: Attackers used pepper spray in assault, prosecutors say

Capitol officer Sicknick died of natural causes after Jan 6 riot: Medical examiner

A medical examiner announced U.S. Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick died of a stroke the day after the riot at the Capitol building.

Two men accused of assaulting U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who later died, conspired to attack law enforcement during the Jan. 6 riot and used pepper spray to do so, despite earlier reports that they had been using bear spray, prosecutors alleged during a Tuesday morning bond hearing.

George Tanios, 39, of Morgantown, West Virginia, and Julian Khater, 32, of Pennsylvania, appeared for a virtual hearing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where they face charges of assault on a federal officer with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to injure an officer, among others, according to court papers and officials.

Tanios and Khater were seeking to be freed on bond. The hearing closed without any conclusion reached regarding the pair’s bail or bond. Both will return for a virtual hearing on May 6 at 9 a.m. 

Court documents released at the time of their March arrest alleged the pair assaulted law enforcement officers, including Sicknick, on Jan. 6 with an “unknown chemical substance by spraying officers directly in the face and eyes.”

Documents also alleged that Khater at one point said, “Give me that bear s—,” before reaching into a knapsack on Tanios’ back. Tanios allegedly told Khater “not yet” because it was “still early,” but Khater responded that “they just f—ing sprayed me.” Khater was then seen holding a can of chemical spray, prosecutors say.

On Tuesday, federal prosecutors said they believe the pair used a small canister of pepper spray, rather than bear spray as was initially suspected, in their attack on officers. According to the government, Khater and Tanios allegedly brought bear spray to the rally but used a smaller can of what is believed to be pepper spray when they attacked police.

Nonetheless, prosecutors maintained that Khater and Tanios acted in a pre-meditated manner. “Why are they bringing bear spray to go to a city? … There are no bears in downtown D.C.,” a prosecutor told the court.

The government also contends that the pair’s actions allowed rioters to achieve their goal, telling the court: “Without those actions, the police barriers don’t fall and the Capitol doesn’t get breached.”

Khater’s attorneys argued their client’s action during the Jan. 6 riot was a one-time event that was reactionary to him being sprayed by law enforcement. Tanios’ lawyers produced a witness who spoke positively about their client, saying he was not a violent individual.

Earlier this month, the Washington, D.C., medical examiner’s office ruled that Sicknick suffered a stroke and died from natural causes.

An honor guard places an urn with the cremated remains of U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick and folded flag on a black-draped table at center of the Capitol Rotunda to lie in honor Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021, in Washington. (Leah Millis/Pool via AP)

The determination of a natural cause of death meant the medical examiner found that a medical condition alone caused his death — it was not brought on by an injury. The determination is likely to significantly inhibit the ability of federal prosecutors to bring homicide charges in Sicknick’s death.

U.S. Capitol Police said at the time that the agency accepted the medical examiner’s findings but that the ruling didn’t change the fact that Sicknick had died in the line of duty, “courageously defending Congress and the Capitol.”


“The attack on our officers, including Brian, was an attack on our democracy,” police officials said in a statement. “The United States Capitol Police will never forget Officer Sicknick’s bravery, nor the bravery of any officer on January 6, who risked their lives to defend our democracy.”

Fox News’ David Spunt contributed to this report, as well as The Associated Press. 

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