Could an Arrest in the Death of Capitol Officer Brian Sicknick Be Imminent? FBI Identifies Possible Suspect

Capitol Officer Brian Sicknick, 42, died after the Jan. 6 insurrection
Capitol Police

The unidentified person was seen on video spraying bear spray against multiple people during the attack, a report said.

The FBI is narrowing in on one possible suspect in the death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died after responding to the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, CBS News reported. A law enforcement official told CBS the unidentified person they believe is a suspect in the case was seen on video spraying bear spray against multiple people during the attack.

Days after the attack, the FBI. opened a homicide investigation into Sicknick’s death. Initially, investigators were trying to determine what had happened to Sicknick as he fought protesters. They soon began to suspect his death was related to an irritant, like mace or bear spray, that he inhaled during the riot. Both officers and rioters were armed with such irritants during the attack, according to The New York Times, the first to report on the story about a potential suspect.

A potential break in the case came when investigators were able to pinpoint a person seen on the video who had attacked several officers with bear spray, including Sicknick, according to officials. The video also shows the unidentified person had discussed using bear spray on the officers beforehand, the Times reported.

Bear spray, pepper spray and mace are considered to be nonlethal crowd control deterrents but can cause physical reactions such as disorientation that could lead to injury. It also can pose a risk for those with underlying health conditions. 

"The inflammatory properties of the bear spray will affect humans in a similar way as it does bears," The Get Bear Smart Society writes on its website."A person contaminated with bear spray will experience the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and lungs to swell and be irritated. The eyes will involuntarily close and tear, the nose will run profusely [and] coughing will result.

"It may take up to 15 – 20 minutes before relief from the symptoms are felt," the site notes. "If the symptoms persist seek medical attention."

A specialized team has been devoted to looking into the death of Sicknick, which is a top priority for the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, D.C., NPR reported. 

A statement issued by the Capitol police on Jan. 7 said Sicknick “was injured while physically engaging with protesters,” and then “returned to his division office and collapsed.” He was taken to the hospital and later died from his injuries.

Sicknick, 42 was an Air National Guard veteran who served in Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan. He joined the Capitol Police in 2008. He most recently served in the Department’s First Responders Unit, according to a report. He was laid in honor at the Capitol Rotunda and his remains were buried at Arlington Cemetery, officials said.

Since the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, more than 300 people have been charged, CBS reported. The FBI has said it has issued more than 500 grand jury subpoenas and search warrants and received more than 200,000 digital media tips from those hoping to help authorities identify the rioters, CBS reported.

Based on the evidence presented at the given time, prosecutors could be more likely to bring charges of assaulting an officer, rather than murder, The New York Times reported.