The body of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick wasn’t even cold before his employer leveraged his untimely death to stoke more outrage about the events in the nation’s capital on January 6.
“At approximately 9:30 p.m. this evening . . . United States Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick passed away due to injuries sustained while on-duty,” read a press release issued January 7. “Officer Sicknick was responding to the riots [and] was injured while physically engaging with protesters. He returned to his division office and collapsed. He was taken to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. The death of Officer Sicknick will be investigated by the Metropolitan Police Department’s Homicide Branch, the USCP, and our federal partners.”
The agency intentionally included the word “homicide” to suggest Sicknick was killed by homicidal Trump supporters. The next day, the New York Times, citing two anonymous law enforcement officials, claimed “pro-Trump rioters . . . overpowered Mr. Sicknick, 42, and struck him in the head with a fire extinguisher.”
“With a bloody gash in his head, Mr. Sicknick was rushed to the hospital and placed on life support. He died on Thursday evening.”
We now know that gruesome account was completely fabricated. Can anyone doubt, given their flagrant partisanship in the wake of the Capitol protest, the U.S. Capitol Police planted the now-retracted fire extinguisher story?
Rather than act as a politically neutral law enforcement agency tasked with protecting government grounds and public officials on behalf of the federal taxpayers they serve, the USCP has contributed to the fabulism about January 6 while covering up other aspects to help Democrats and Joe Biden’s Justice Department keep the “insurrection” narrative alive. There’s no question many Capitol Police officers acted heroically in the face of several protesters bent on violence that day, however, USCP brass have helped Democrats define the January 6 groupthink from the start.
“The violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was unlike any I have ever experienced in my 30 years in law enforcement here in Washington, D.C.,” former USCP chief Steven Sund wrote in a statement posted January 7. “[M]ake no mistake—these mass riots were not First Amendment activities; they were criminal riotous behavior.”
In exchange for USCPs subservience, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wants to reward USCP in a $1.9 billion emergency appropriations bill that barely passed the House last week. The kickback includes more than $60 million in new funding for the department, including $31 million in overtime pay, nearly $7 million for “hazard pay,” and more than $6 million for retention bonuses and tuition credits.
Another $4.4 million would help create a “Wellness and Trauma” support program named after a Capitol Police officer who reportedly committed suicide a few days after the protest. USCP issued another press release on January 10 announcing the off-duty death of Officer Howard Liebengood, which became another talking point to bolster the description of a so-called “deadly insurrection.”
But USCP does not deserve an infusion of new tax dollars. Rather, it deserves to face harsh scrutiny from congressional Republicans and the news media for its conduct over the past few months.
Not only did USCP initiate the lie that Sicknick was killed in the line of duty, the agency continued to perpetuate the falsehood for months. “The family of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick thanks the Congressional leadership for bestowing this historic honor on our fallen American hero,” the department said in a statement after Pelosi announced Sicknick’s remains would lie in state in the Capitol rotunda.
When two men were arrested in March for allegedly spraying Sicknick with a chemical irritant, USCP cheered the news, again repeating the lie that the late officer “was injured while protecting Congress during the riot at the U.S. Capitol.” (After the fire extinguisher tale fell apart, the media and Justice Department quickly pivoted to a new excuse—Sicknick suffered a fatal allergic reaction to bear spray.) “After the attack, he was taken to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries on the evening of January 7.”
But there were no injuries. Sicknick didn’t die as a result of deadly blows or a bad reaction to a chemical spray. The D.C. Medical Examiner’s Office in April finally revealed Sicknick died of natural causes, a stroke caused by blood clots near his brain.
Even after the autopsy results were made public, USPC honchos continued to lie both to the public and in congressional testimony. Acting USCP chief Yognanda Pittman told the Senate Appropriations committee the January 6 protest “resulted in the deaths of Officer Sicknick,” two days after the Medical Examiner released its report on the cause of Sicknick’s death.
The flacks at the USCP press office also refused to accept the coroner’s findings. “This does not change the fact Officer Sicknick died in the line of duty, courageously defending Congress and the Capitol,” read an April 19 press release. “The Department continues to mourn the loss of our beloved colleague. The attack on our officers, including Brian, was an attack on our democracy.”
No one killed Brian Sicknick. But the USCP purposely misled tens of millions of people into believing someone did.
Rank-and-file officers are also helping to bolster the narrative about January 6. In a lawsuit filed against Donald Trump, James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby accused the former president of encouraging the “insurrectionist mob” that resulted in their physical and emotional injuries. “During his 2016 campaign, and throughout his presidency, Trump had threatened violence towards his opponents, encouraged his followers to commit acts of violence, and condoned acts of violence by his followers, including white supremacists and far right-wing hate groups,” the pair wrote. “Thousands of Trump’s followers congregated on the National Mall near the White House. Many were armed members of far right-wing hate organizations like the Proud Boys.” (An accusation that is patently false.) Blassingame claimed he was called racial slurs and the experience left him with “severe emotional distress”
While USCP intentionally misleads Americans about what happened on January 6, the agency is concealing the truth about other important matters including the name of the officer who shot Ashli Babbitt, the unarmed veteran killed on January 6. The Justice Department in April announced it had closed its investigation into her shooting, determining the unidentified officer did not commit any crime by killing her. USCP placed the unidentified officers on administrative leave pending the investigation; it’s unclear if he has since returned to duty.
USCP also doesn’t want the American public to see a full video account of January 6. The agency, according to an affidavit filed in March by the general counsel, has successfully argued to keep more than 14,000 hours of footage captured during the “attempted insurrection,” the term used by the USCP lawyer, under wraps. USCP warns release of the video could help wannabe “insurrectionists” plot another attack on “our democracy”; the Justice Department has sought and received protective orders that inhibit access to defendants and their lawyers.
The department also should disclose who wrote an anonymous letter released last week threatening to withhold security from lawmakers and their staff if Congress didn’t pass legislation creating a 9/11-style commission. (The letter also suggests Sicknick and other officers died as a result of the protest.)
House Republicans unanimously voted against Pelosi’s $60 million payback to USCP; Republican senators should do the same—but not before confronting the department about its numerous lies, obfuscations, and flagrant politicking on behalf of Democrats.