What Happened to Officer Brian Sicknick?

The claim is so pervasive as not to be questioned: Five people died as a result of the January 6 “insurrection” at the Capitol building, killed by blood-thirsty Trump voters at the president’s behest, out for revenge over a stolen election.

Even though only one death—the shooting of Ashli Babbitt by a still-unidentified police officer—is provable by video evidence, the other fatalities nonetheless are accepted as an article of faith to stoke public outrage about what happened that day.

The most tragic death, the media and lawmakers lament, is that of United States Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. The 42-year-old New Jersey native was a 12-year veteran of the Capitol police force and himself a supporter of Donald Trump.

Before details about his death could be confirmed, the media quickly insisted Sicknick died after he was attacked at the Capitol. 

“A United States Capitol Police officer died Thursday night from injuries sustained when he engaged with a pro-Trump mob that descended on the U.S. Capitol the day before,” the New York Times reported January 8. The officer, according to the Times, had been “struck . . . in the head with a fire extinguisher, according to two law enforcement officials. With a bloody gash in his head, Mr. Sicknick was rushed to the hospital and placed on life support.”

Sicknick died on January 7. A statement released by the police department later that night vaguely supported the media’s emerging narrative.

Narrative vs. Evidence

Democrats wasted no time exploiting Sicknick’s untimely death. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) immediately ordered flags flown at half-staff at the Capitol; news and opinion outlets on both the Left and NeverTrump Right blamed the so-called “insurrectionists” for killing Sicknick.

National Review claimed, without evidence, that Sicknick was “murdered.” The president and his allies in the Senate, pundits raged, were accomplices. “When he told followers to ‘STAND UP,’ they listened and murdered a cop while storming the Capitol,” one Washington Examiner writer tweeted about the role of Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). “Make him pay.”

Lawmakers of both parties paid their respects to Sicknick last week during a rare Capitol ceremony; his body lay in honor in the Rotunda on February 3 following a brief memorial service. When Joe Biden and his wife walked away from the display, the president shook his head in grief.

The widely-accepted circumstances surrounding Sicknick’s death are part of the Democrats’ impeachment crusade against Donald Trump. “The insurrectionists killed a Capitol Police officer by striking him in the head with a fire extinguisher,” House impeachment managers allege in a memorandum detailing their evidence.

But that inflammatory accusation isn’t backed by an autopsy report or any hard evidence such as a video clip. It isn’t backed by charging documents filed against anyone suspected of killing Sicknick; nearly five weeks later, no one has been accused of murdering the officer even though federal law enforcement officials have arrested more than 200 people tied to their involvement in the January 6 melee.

No, the only proof the House impeachment managers can find is the January 8, New York Times article that relied not on evidence but on background from “two law enforcement officials.”

Struggling to Build a Case

If Sicknick is the face representing the carnage of January 6, Democrats are at risk of losing their most compelling sympathy storyline just as the impeachment trial gets underway. 

“Investigators are struggling to build a federal murder case regarding fallen U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, vexed by a lack of evidence that could prove someone caused his death,” CNN disclosed last week. “Authorities have reviewed video and photographs that show Sicknick engaging with rioters amid the siege but have yet to identify a moment in which he suffered his fatal injuries.”

A medical examiner’s report has not been released and law enforcement authorities are tight-lipped; in a January 26 email to me, an FBI spokeswoman refused to comment on the status of the investigation. The District of Columbia medical examiner’s office told me Monday by email they “will release the cause and manner of death when this information is available.”

Sources, however, told CNN that the medical examiner “did not find signs that the officer sustained any blunt force trauma . . . and early reports that he was fatally struck by a fire extinguisher are not true.” Investigators also couldn’t confirm that Sicknick died as a result of reaction to pepper spray.

Messaging from the FBI does little to inspire trust in the Sicknick storyline. The agency at first issued a statement that claimed 37 suspects were under investigation for the officer’s death but later said the statement was in error and relied on “incorrect internal information.”

During a January 12 press briefing on its sweeping investigation into the events of January 6, the assistant director for the FBI’s D.C. field office twice referred to Sicknick as having “passed away,” with no mention of his having been “murdered” or “killed.” A distinction, in this matter, with a big difference.

Will Optics Trump the Truth?

Comments from Sicknick’s family also raise legitimate suspicions about what happened to their loved one. 

“Many details regarding Wednesday’s events and the direct causes of Brian’s injuries remain unknown, and our family asks the public and the press to respect our wishes in not making Brian’s passing a political issue,” his older brother wrote in a statement released January 8.

The family issued another brief statement thanking Democratic Congressional leaders for bestowing the “historic honor” of lying Sicknick’s remains in the Capitol and his subsequent burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Democrats undoubtedly will present lots of optics this week related to Sicknick’s tragic death but Republican lawmakers, Trump’s legal team, and the media must demand more evidence. There is, of course, a chance that the FBI is having trouble identifying any suspects from the more than 200,000 tips it has gleaned so far—although one must wonder why a nationwide manhunt is finding Trump supporters charged with trespass misdemeanors, and not a heartless cop killer instead.

The more likely explanation is that Sicknick wasn’t murdered but died of other causes that neither law enforcement nor the family wants made public. It’s certainly the family’s prerogative to keep it secret; it is not, however, acceptable for the FBI to continue avoiding questions while at the same time feeding the public a false account of what happened to him. And since the medical examiner’s office hadn’t confirmed the cause of death, it’s beyond irresponsible for anyone, particularly a reporter, to describe it as murder.

The Left, as past and present show, will stop at nothing to destroy Donald Trump and vilify his supporters. No one should discount the idea that Democrats and the news media would intentionally promote a totally fabricated story or use as a prop an untimely death to satisfy that mission.

And since Democrats included the “murder” of Brian Sicknick in its bill of particulars against the president, the impeachment trial, ironically, offers the only opportunity for Trump and his defenders to clear the air on Sicknick’s death—it’s an opportunity they should not waste.

About Julie Kelly

Julie Kelly is a political commentator and senior contributor to American Greatness. She is the author of Disloyal Opposition: How the NeverTrump Right Tried―And Failed―To Take Down the President. Her past work can be found at The Federalist and National Review. She also has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, and Genetic Literacy Project. After college graduation, she served as a policy and communications consultant for several Republican candidates and elected officials in suburban Chicago. She also volunteered for her local GOP organization. After staying home for more than 10 years to raise her two daughters, Julie began teaching cooking classes out of her home. She then started writing about food policy, agriculture, and biotechnology, as well as climate change and other scientific issues. She graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 1990 with a degree in communications and minor degrees in political science and journalism. Julie lives in suburban Chicago with her husband, two daughters, and (unfortunately) three dogs.

Photo: Brendan Smialowski-Pool/Getty Images

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