(Bloomberg) — Two men were charged with assaulting a U.S. Capitol Police officer who died after he helped fight off the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Julian Elie Khater, 32, of Pennsylvania, and George Pierre Tanios, 39, of West Virginia, were arrested Sunday on charges that they attacked U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick with chemical spray during the siege. But the Justice Department did not charge the men with causing Sicknick’s death, suggesting the precise circumstances remain uncertain. Sicknick returned to his division office after the riot and collapsed, before dying at the hospital.
The charges represent a significant breakthrough in the Capitol riot investigation. So far, prosecutors in Washington have charged more than 300 people for the violence at the Capitol as part of a nationwide dragnet that has zeroed in on members of far-right groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.
Sicknick’s death was one of the worst consequences of the riot, which left more than 100 police officers injured. Two other officers who defended the Capitol died by suicide shortly after the attack. Early reports suggested that Sicknick had been bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher, but officials later disputed that claim.
In video footage reviewed by the authorities, Khater can be heard asking Tanios to “give me that bear s—,” an apparent reference to bear spray. Tanios replied, “Hold on, hold on, hold on, not yet, not yet…it’s still early,” according to a criminal complaint in federal court in Washington.
A few minutes later, the authorities said, Khater approached a line of Capitol Police officers, including Sicknick. He aimed a spray cannister at the officers and moved his right arm from side to side, the authorities said, causing Sicknick and two other officers to retreat from the line and rush to wash out their eyes.
Khater and Tanios appeared to time the assault to coincide with other rioters’ efforts to “forcibly remove the bike rack barriers that were preventing the rioters from moving closer to the Capitol building,” the complaint said.
Sicknick and the other officers were temporarily blinded by the substance, the complaint said, and needed medical attention and assistance from colleagues.
The two men were charged with assaulting a federal officer and conspiring to injure an officer, among other offenses. Authorities said the men worked together to execute “a plan to use the toxic spray against law enforcement.”
Prosecutors identified Tanios and Khater using confidential informants as well as social media posts on LinkedIn and Facebook. One tipster told the FBI that Tanios and Khater had grown up together in New Jersey, according to the complaint.
Khater is scheduled to appear in federal court in New Jersey, and Tanios in federal court in West Virginia, later today.
A New Jersey native, Sicknick joined the Capitol Police in 2008. Before that, he served in the Air National Guard, which deployed him to Saudi Arabia in 1999.