Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died Thursday night from wounds sustained trying to protect the nation’s legislature from pro-Trump insurrectionists. The Capitol Police said Sicknick succumbed to injuries inflicted “while physically engaging” with pro-Trump rioters Wednesday. That, however, appears to be a euphemism for beaten to death by Trump supporters, as officials told the New York Times that Sicknick was struck with a fire extinguisher by rioters. “He returned to his division office and collapsed,” the Capitol Police said in the statement. “He was taken to a local hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.”
Sicknick is the fifth and perhaps most consequential fatality resulting from the hours of madness on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. The circumstances of his death are still not totally clear, much like the circumstances around much of what happened that day. The officer’s death, once again, highlights the consequences of the woeful police presence and response, despite the best efforts of the officers on the scene. It also heaps additional responsibility on President Donald Trump and those who incited and participated in the siege. The other deaths from the violent takeover have apparently been confined to those who participated in the siege, including Ashli Babbitt, a pro-Trump rioter who was allegedly shot and killed by police in the melee. Police have said three others died of medical emergencies in the Capitol area, but a public officer has now died as a consequence of an insurrection fueled by the “law and order” president’s urging.
Sicknick’s death also ups the legal stakes, making those directly involved potential accessories to murder. The officer’s death is now being handled by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department’s homicide branch, in addition to the Capitol Police and FBI. The psychological stakes could be raised as well, particularly for many Republicans who, while condemning the violence, have maintained that the rioters’ grievances were somehow legitimate and their anger justified.