Sandra Garza is something of a fixture at January 6 Select Committee hearings.
Routinely described as the “life partner” of the late Brian Sicknick—even though she admitted the couple had taken a “break” from their 11-year relationship several months before the Capitol protest—Garza nonetheless acts the grieving widow of Sicknick, the Capitol Police officer who died on January 7, 2021 after suffering two strokes caused by a blood clot.
She has given numerous interviews since Sicknick’s tragic and untimely death at the age of 42, blaming Donald Trump and Republicans for her ex-boyfriend’s fatal strokes. Garza traveled to Capitol Hill in May 2021 to demand the creation of the special committee to investigate the events of January 6; her public suffering recently caught the attention of Prince William, who sent Garza a letter expressing his condolences. “I was very honored and humbled and in awe that Prince William from England decided to take time out of his busy schedule to write me a letter to honor Brian’s memory and to acknowledge my pain,” Garza told CNN’s Jake Tapper last month.
No doubt Garza remains heartbroken by the sudden and shocking loss of a beloved friend. But that does not mean her falsehoods or egregious politicization of Sicknick’s passing can go unchecked.
In a way, one can hardly blame Garza when she’s egged on by everyone from Joe Biden and the national news media to members of the January 6 committee, all of whom continue to lie about Sicknick and other law enforcement fatalities allegedly tied to the Capitol protest
Just last week, a full 15 months after the D.C. coroner concluded Sicknick died of natural causes and sustained no internal or external injuries on January 6, Representative Elaine Luria (D-Va.) publicly berated Donald Trump for failing to acknowledge “the names and the memories of the officers who died following the attack on the Capitol.” (January 6 propagandists blame the protest for the reported suicides of four other police officers.)
As Garza held hands with another Capitol Police officer who claimed he was injured that day, Luria again falsely stated that Sicknick “succumbed to his injuries” the night after the protest.
No entity is more responsible for the myths surrounding Brian Sicknick’s death than the New York Times—but over the weekend, rather than offering a long overdue mea culpa for its leading role in perpetuating the lie, the Times instead condemned my reporting for daring to contradict the official regime narrative, particularly related to law enforcement.
“One of the most influential journalists on the right who has backed Mr. Trump after Jan. 6 is Julie Kelly, a writer for the website American Greatness, whose articles have informed the coverage in larger conservative media outlets like Fox News,” reporter Jeremy W. Peters wrote on Sunday. “For more than a year, Ms. Kelly has raised doubts about the severity of the attack and played down the deaths of the police officers on the scene that day.”
If “playing down the deaths” of police officers means fact-checking the Times, then I am guilty as charged.
Citing the autopsy results, Peters accused others and me of “seiz[ing] on the findings, often without acknowledging that the officer had been assaulted and sprayed with an unknown chemical irritant by rioters, or allowing for the possibility that the trauma he experienced played a role in his condition, which the medical examiner noted.” (Francisco Diaz, appointed chief medical examiner by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bower a few weeks after the Capitol protest, called January 6 a “an unprecedented incident of civil insurrection.”)
But Peters, an MSNBC contributor as well as a Times media reporter, conveniently omitted a crucial date in the timeline of Sicknick’s death and subsequent coverage: January 8, 2021, the day the Times published a bombshell article purporting to reveal that Sicknick had been beaten to death by Trump supporters. “Mr. Sicknick, 42, an officer for the Capitol Police, died on Thursday from brain injuries he sustained after Trump loyalists who overtook the complex struck him in the head with a fire extinguisher, according to two law enforcement officials,” the Times reported.
The anonymously sourced account went viral, immediately picked up by every news and opinion outlet as fact. Democrats included the article in its post-January 6 impeachment memo. Sicknick’s remains were laid in honor at the Rotunda in early February; Joe and Jill Biden paid their respects alongside congressional leaders of both parties before Sicknick was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
After the supporting optics served their purpose—to brand Trump and his supporters as cop killers—the Times quietly retracted the fire extinguisher story. But it was only a matter of weeks before the paper seeded a new theory as to the likely cause of Sicknick’s death; a fatal reaction to chemical spray. The Times produced an elaborate video attempting to show how two men, Julian Khater and George Tanios, attacked Sicknick that afternoon.
“A thin stream of liquid is visible shooting from a canister in Mr. Khater’s hand,” the Times reported on March 24, 2021. “Officer Sicknick reacts immediately to the spray, turning and raising his hand.” Khater and Tanios were arrested and charged in the alleged assault; after the Justice Department demanded pretrial detention for both men, D.C. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan denied their release.
(Tanios finally was freed under strict home detention conditions five months later when an appellate court overturned Hogan’s order. Khater remains in the D.C. gulag as both await an October 5 trial date.)
But the Times’ revised attempt to blame Trump supporters for Sicknick’s death didn’t hold up, either. The D.C. coroner told the Washington Post in April 2021 that he found “no evidence” Sicknick suffered an allergic reaction to chemical spray used that afternoon.
Contrary to Peters’ assertion that people in “conservative media” have “exaggerated” or “sanitized” the events of January 6, it is news outlets such as the Times that continue to do so—without remorse or reflection. Exploiting the early death of a police officer—by all accounts a good man who loved and served his country—to score political points cheapens Sicknick’s life. And it’s not the fault of those insisting on the truth but those who peddle falsehoods, portray innocent men as murderers, and seek sympathy based on a lie. That’s the real tragedy behind Officer Brian Sicknick’s story.