Report: Official says Capitol police officer likely not killed by blunt force trauma from fire extinguisher

A report published late last week claimed that a forensic exam of the Capitol Police officer who died following the Jan. 6 riot was allegedly not killed by blunt force trauma from a fire extinguisher, as previously claimed.

The CNN report noted that federal investigators were having difficulty building a murder case following the death of police officer Brian Sicknick because they are “vexed by a lack of evidence that could prove someone caused his death as he defended the Capitol” during last month’s riot.

The network reported that medical examiner findings have yet to be made public but added, “According to one law enforcement official, medical examiners did not find signs that the officer sustained any blunt force trauma, so investigators believe that early reports that he was fatally struck by a fire extinguisher are not true.”

In the days following the riot, media reports claimed that Sicknick was struck with an extinguisher and later collapsed at Capitol Police headquarters after the incident.

“At some point in the chaos — with the mob rampaging through the halls of Congress while lawmakers were forced to hide under their desks — he was struck with a fire extinguisher, according to two law enforcement officials,” The New York Times reported Jan. 8.

Meanwhile, the same day a report by The Associated Press noted, “Sicknick, 42, was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher during a struggle, two law enforcement officials said, although it was not clear if he was the officer shown in the video.” 

The New York Daily News ran with the headline: “Hero Capitol Police cop killed by blow to the head with a fire extinguisher during Trump-inspired riot.”

And Slate reported under this headline: “Police Officer That Rioters Hit With Fire Extinguisher Dies, Making Capitol Siege a Murder Scene.”

Perhaps based on those and other similar reports, federal investigators opened a murder case into Sicknick’s death. But thus far, according to CNN, they have found little evidence to support the allegation.

Instead, investigators are considering alternative reasons for why he died following the riot, including the possibility he may have become extremely ill after being exposed to a chemical irritant such as bear or pepper spray that was used by rioters.

That said, investigators have also not been able to confirm the hypothesis after reviewing the available video from the Capitol assault.

“The case could also be complicated if Sicknick had a preexisting medical condition. It could not be learned if he did,” CNN reported, adding that Capitol Police would not comment.

Sicknick’s remains lay in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda last week, only the fifth American so honored. Originally from New Jersey, he was a 13-year veteran of the Capitol Police force and an Air National Guard veteran twice deployed overseas.

CNN noted that to date, very little has been publicly reported about Sicknick, including findings from the DC Medical Examiner’s office. A day after the riot, the Capitol Police said that he was “injured while physically engaging with protesters” and later collapsed sometime after he returned to the office. He passed away the following day at a local hospital.

One of the rioters, Air Force vet Ashli Babbitt, 35, was shot and killed by a plainclothes official as she attempted to breach a set of doors leading to a sensitive room outside the House chambers.

Investigators have said the officer, reportedly with the Capitol Police, should not be charged, though prosecutors will make the final decision. 

He has not been publicly identified.

Jon Dougherty

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