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Slain Capitol cop Brian Sicknick, lauded as ‘peacekeeper,’ laid to rest

Updated February 3, 2021 - 9:24 am

WASHINGTON — Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died of injuries inflicted during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, lay in honor overnight in the Capitol Rotunda where fellow officers and elected officials from both parties paid their respects before his burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, went to the Capitol Tuesday night to pay their respects to the fallen officer. The first couple arrived at 9:30 p.m. via motorcade. Wearing black masks, they solemnly looked at the box that held his ashes. The president crossed himself before walking away.

The president spoke to Sicknick family members shortly after he died of injuries when he was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher.

“There really aren’t enough kind words in any language to describe how sweet Brian was. He was truly a lovely, humble soul. We are missing him terribly,” said his family in a statement released at the time. “He was sweet natured through and through. Everyone who met him adored him. He also loved his dachshunds dearly, spoiling them, and ensuring they got the best care possible.”

Sicknick joined the Capitol police force in July 2008. Before that, he served six years in the New Jersey Air National Guard. He deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1999 and Kyrgyzstan in 2003.

Investigation ongoing

There are still questions about his death, which was one of five as a result of the rioting. As the mob forced its way in, Sicknick was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher, two law enforcement officials said. He collapsed later on, was hospitalized and died. The officials could not discuss the ongoing investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Investigators are also examining whether he may have ingested a chemical substance during the riot that may have contributed to his death, the officials said.

Biden’s tribute Tuesday evening stood in stark contrast to former President Donald Trump, who never made a public expression of sorrow over the officer’s death or took any responsibility for the attack.

Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Douglas Emhoff paid their respects Tuesday morning.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that Sicknick would lie in honor for some 14 hours last week. “The U.S. Congress is united in grief, gratitude and solemn appreciation for the service and sacrifice of Officer Brian Sicknick,” Schumer and Pelosi said in a statement.

“The heroism of Officer Sicknick and the Capitol Police force during the violent insurrection against our Capitol helped saved lives, defend the temple of our democracy and ensure that Congress was not diverted from our duty to the Constitution.”

‘A peacekeeper’

During brief remarks, Schumer said that he did not know Sicknick, but said he spoke with friends who told him “Brian wouldn’t have liked this attention, and if he were here he would be the first to puncture this somber moment with a sharp sense of humor.

“Brian was a peacekeeper whose loved his dogs and his girlfriend, Sandra, and his family and the New Jersey Devils. He was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and on a day when peace was shattered.”

Bagpipes played Amazing Grace as an honor guard descended the Capitol steps holding a box with Sicknick’s ashes and a folded American flag into a hearse.

On a brisk morning that saw a thin layer of snow on parts of the Capitol grounds, the U.S. Capitol Police started the motorcade to the burial site on bicycle.

Rare honor

Sicknick is only the fifth person to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda, a designation for those who are not elected officials, judges or military leaders. The others who have lain in honor were John Gibson and Jacob Chestnut, Jr., two officers who were killed in a 1998 shooting at the Capitol; civil rights leader Rosa Parks, who died in 2005; and the Rev. Billy Graham, who died in 2018.

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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