New Videos Show Alleged Assault On Officer Brian Sicknick During Capitol Riot
The Department of Justice released on Wednesday a group of videos depicting the alleged assault on Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick and other members of law enforcement during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The videos have been cited as evidence in the assault and conspiracy cases against two men - Julian Khater, 32, of State College, Penn., and George Tanios, 39, of Morgantown, W. Va.
The videos have been described by prosecutors and played in court, but have not previously been made widely available. The government made the footage available after a coalition of 14 media organizations, including NPR, filed a legal motion in federal court, arguing that the public had a "powerful interest" in seeing the evidence cited in the government's prosecution of violent crimes committed on Jan. 6. After initially rejecting the media coalition's requests, citing potential security concerns regarding surveillance footage from the U.S. Capitol, the Department of Justice decided to release the videos.
Khater and Tanios have not been charged in Sicknick's death.
Sicknick died the day after the attack on the Capitol, and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Washington, D.C., ruled that the death was "natural" and the result of two strokes. In an interview with The Washington Post, the medical examiner, Dr. Francisco J. Diaz, said Sicknick did not suffer an allergic reaction from being sprayed with chemicals, but "all that transpired [on Jan. 6] played a role in his condition."
Federal prosecutors say that on Jan. 6, Khater and Tanios moved toward a police line that included Sicknick on the Lower West Terrace of the U.S. Capitol building.
"Khater is wearing a beanie with a pom-pom on top, a dark jacket, and has a beard," prosecutors state. "Tanios is wearing a red hat, black backpack, dark hooded sweatshirt, and has a beard."
Just after 2:14 pm, according to prosecutors, "Khater reaches his hand towards Tanios's backpack and then stands behind Tanios, appearing to reach inside the backpack and retrieve something."
In one video, as described by the government, Khater tells Tanios "Give me that bear s***," and Tanios responds, "Hold on, hold on, not yet, not yet... it's still early." Later, Khater can allegedly be seen holding a white can of chemical spray in his hand.
The government has cited this conversation in court as evidence that "the two were working in concert and had a plan to use the toxic spray against law enforcement."
Later, just after 2:23 pm, prosecutors say Khater is seen at the police line "holding a canister in his right hand and aiming it in the officers' direction while moving his right arm from side to side."
Multiple police officers, including Sicknick, "immediately retreat from the line, bring their hands to their faces and rush to find water to wash out their eyes," prosecutors say. "Officer Sicknick can be seen bending over and washing his eyes out away from the line."
The government claims that it has obtained copies of receipts, showing Tanios purchased four canisters of chemical spray on the evening of Jan. 5, the night before the attack on the Capitol.
Neither Khater nor Tanios are accused of breaching the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Khater's defense has argued that the evidence he deliberately aimed a chemical spray at police is "at best equivocal." Given the use of chemical sprays by law enforcement, Khater's attorneys argued, it's possible that the police officers may have been sprayed by their own side.
Tanios' attorneys have stated that he "emphatically denies each charge" brought by the government.
"Mr. Tanios did not spray any officer with O.C. spray, 'bear spray' or any other chemicals," Tanios' attorney stated in a court filing. "Other than Mr. Tanios being present, the video clips fail to show much at all in terms of the criminal acts allegedly committed by Mr. Tanios."
Both men are seeking to be released from federal custody pending their trial on the charges related to the Capitol Riot. The Department of Justice is arguing against their release, saying that the serious nature of the alleged crimes and the potential danger both men pose to the public, weighs in favor of their detention.
A federal judge is set to hear additional arguments on those issues on May 6.
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