March 15 (UPI) — Federal authorities arrested two men Sunday on charges including assaulting a U.S. Capitol Police officer who later died from injuries sustained during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, officials said Monday.
Julian Elie Khater, 32, of State College, Penn., and George Pierre Tanios, 39, of Morgantown, W.Va., were expected to make a court appearance in federal court Monday. They are accused of using bear spray to attack Officer Brian D. Sicknick.
Authorities are unsure if the spraying caused Sicknick’s death.
According to a federal affidavit, Khater and Tanios were observed in video footage working together to assault law enforcement officers with an unknown chemical substance by spraying officers directly in the face and eyes. Khater is accused of grabbing the spray from Tanios’ backpack and walking within a few steps of the police perimeter.
“The video shows Khater with his right arm up high in the air, appearing to be holding a canister in his right hand and aiming it at the officers’ direction while moving his right arm from side to side,” the Justice Department statement said.
It said Sicknick and two other officers reacted after being sprayed in the face, and retreated to find water to wash out their eyes.
Prosecutors charged Khater and Tanios each with one count of conspiracy to injure an officer; three counts of assault on a federal officer with a dangerous weapon; one count of civil disorder; one count of obstructing or impeding an official proceeding; one count of physical violence on restricted grounds, while carrying a dangerous weapon and resulting in significant bodily injury; and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct.
Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said the department sill mourns Sicknick’s death and thanked the FBI and the Metro Police Department for their work to identify and arrest those responsible as well as Acting U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips for prosecuting the case.
“The attack on the U.S. Capitol and on our police officers, including Brian Sicknick, was an attack on our democracy,” she said in a statement. “Those who perpetrated these heinous crimes must be held accountable, and — let me be clear — these unlawful actions are not and will not be tolerated by this department.”
Sicknick was attacked while defending the Capitol on Jan. 6 and died a day later. Supporters of former president Donald Trump stormed the building in an attempt to disrupt Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory.
Capitol Police first said Sicknick was hit with a fire extinguisher. They later revised the statement, saying his death was not caused by blunt force trauma. His autopsy report remains pending.
Pittman said a multi-jurisdictional investigation into his death is ongoing and the Capitol Police department will provide further information following its completion.