Capitol Police officer's death is being investigated as a homicide; any charges will be federal
By KRISTINE PHILLIPS AND KEVIN JOHNSON | USA Today | Published: January 8, 2021
WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — The death of U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick is being investigated as a homicide by federal and local authorities — a development that raises the stakes of the investigation into possible crimes committed during the violent security breach at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Sicknick was injured while "physically engaging with protesters" who swarmed the Capitol building, Capitol Police said. He collapsed after returning to his office and was taken to a hospital, where he died Thursday night.
The Metropolitan Police Department's homicide branch, the Capitol Police and the Justice Department are investigating Sicknick's death. Any criminal charges related to Sicknick's death will be federal because the events leading up to it happened on federal property, an official with knowledge of the matter said.
Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen said the Justice Department "will spare no resources in investigating and holding accoutable those responsible."
Jim Pasco, executive director of the nation's largest police union the Fraternal Order of Police, said the Capitol Police officer's death dramatically raises the stakes in a now-sprawling investigation of the deadly riot.
"It's a wake-up call for anybody who thinks the deep political and social divisions in our country were resolved with the recent election," Pasco said.
Asked if President Donald Trump should be a focus of the ongoing criminal investigation, Pasco, whose group endorsed the president in the November election, said: "You go where the evidence takes you. If the evidence leads there, then that's the way it is."
Five people, including Sicknick, died, several officers were injured and dozens were arrested after a swarm of pro-Trump rioters descended on the Capitol. The chaos prompted an hours-long lockdown and disrupted what should've been a largely ceremonial counting of state-certified Electoral College votes.
During a call with reporters this week, the top federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C. did not rule out the possibility that actions by Trump, who encouraged his supporters to go to the Capitol as he continued to falsely claim that the election had been stolen from him, will also be under scrutiny.
"We're looking at all actors here and anyone that had a role and, if the evidence fits the elements of a crime, they're going to be charged," Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin said after a reporter asked if investigators are looking at the role the president played.
The chaos has already led to at least 55 criminal cases filed by the Justice Department against rioters who were charged with unlawful entry, gun violations, theft, assault and others. One man was arrested after officers found a military-style semi-automatic rifle and 11 Molotov cocktails in his possession, Sherwin said.
More charges are expected in the coming weeks.
Sherwin also made clear that no charges, including sedition, rioting and insurrection, are off the table.
"We will bring the maximum charges we can based upon the conduct," Sherwin said.
Last year, following weeks of unrest in several cities after the death of George Floyd, Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen wrote a memo telling federal prosecutors to consider a sedition charge against protesters who conspired to "take a federal courthouse or other federal property by force."
The chaos has led to widespread criticism of what many saw as an anemic law enforcement response that failed to protect what should've been one of the most secure buildings in Washington, D.C. Republican and Democratic lawmakers have already called for congressional investigations over what they described as a breakdown in police leadership.
Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund will resign later this month. The top law enforcement officials in charge of protect the House and Senate have also resigned.
Sicknick joined Capitol Police in July 2008 and was part of the department's First Responder's Unit at the time of his death. He was a member of the New Jersey National Guard from 1999 to 2003. He was deployed in Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan and was honorably discharged.
"The entire USCP Department expresses its deepest sympathies to Officer Sicknick's family and friends on their loss, and mourns the loss of a friend and colleague," Capitol Police said in a statement.
Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook
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