Two men have been arrested for assaulting US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died after responding on January 6 to hundreds of rioters who stormed the Capitol, the Justice Department announced Monday.
George Pierre Tanios, 39, of West Virginia, and Julian Elie Khater, 32, of Pennsylvania are accused of spraying Sicknick and other police officers during the violent attack. Khater called what was in the canister “bear sh*t,” according to court records, but the Justice Department on Monday said the spray is unknown.
Investigators had struggled for weeks to build a federal murder case in Sicknick’s death as they reviewed video and photographs to try to determine the moment in which he suffered his fatal injuries. Initial reports suggesting Sicknick was struck with a fire extinguisher were false.
“Officers Sicknick, Edwards and Chapman, who are standing within a few feet of Khater, all react, one by one, to something striking them in the face. The officers immediately retreat from the line, bring their hands to their faces and rush to find water to wash out their eyes,” the FBI wrote in court papers, describing the actions caught on video.
Khater and Tanios were identified by a friend who told the FBI the two grew up together in New Jersey.
Tanios is the owner of a sandwich shop called “Sandwich University” in the college town of Morgantown, according to court papers, and he wore a Sandwich University sweatshirt on January 6. Court records show federal authorities also searched Tanios’ property in West Virginia this past weekend.
Both men appeared before a judge on Monday each facing nine charges for the insurrection.
Prosecutors are seeking to keep them in jail pending trial, because they could potentially flee or obstruct justice, and because they believe they’re a danger to the community, court records say.
Sicknick joined the Capitol Police in July 2008 and had served in the Department’s First Responder’s Unit. He also served as a staff sergeant for the New Jersey National Guard.
“The attack on the US Capitol and on our police officers, including Brian Sicknick, was an attack on our democracy,” US Capitol Police acting Chief Yogananda Pittman said in a statement Monday. “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.”
More than 300 people have been charged in connection with the January 6 assault on the US Capitol by Trump supporters.
The DOJ said charges are also likely coming against additional members of the Oath Keepers, building on the existing conspiracy case that already has nine defendants, including one North Carolina woman, prosecutors said last week in court.