Investigators are scrutinising new video evidence that appears to show chemical irritants sprayed at officer Brian Sicknick during the US Capitol riot as they work to determine his cause of death.
Quoting law enforcement sources and people familiar with the matter, multiple outlets report that investigators are looking at whether there are any connections between a possible chemical assault on Officer Sicknick during the riot and the medical distress that led to his death.
It comes as anonymous sources told The Washington Post that Officer Sicknick’s death was not believed to be from blunt force trauma, despite early reports he was struck in the head by a fire extinguisher.
While the fire extinguisher explanation was used in the article of impeachment against Donald Trump, there was no official confirmation of the claims beyond anonymous sources first cited by The New York Times soon after his death.
Whether investigators can determine how Mr Sicknick died, and connect the cause to a specific event such as a pepper or bear spray attack, will determine if anyone is criminally charged over the death.
On Friday, US Capitol Police said in a statement the medical examiner’s report was not yet complete as they are “awaiting toxicology results”.
“[US Capitol Police] continue to work with other government agencies regarding the death investigation,” the statement said.
Officer Sicknick’s mother, meanwhile, has previously said her son died from a fatal stroke and not a blow to the head.
In an interview with DailyMail.com, Gladys Sicknick says they were in the dark as to what may have caused the medical emergency.
“He wasn’t hit on the head no. We think he had a stroke, but we don’t know anything for sure,” she told the outlet. “We’d love to know what happened.”
On the same day as the New York Times reported that Officer Sicknick was rushed to hospital after the fire extinguisher attack, his brother told ProPublica that the two spoke after the riots: “He texted me last night and said, ‘I got pepper-sprayed twice,’ and he was in good shape.”
His father, Charles, told Reuters the same day his son “he had a blood clot on his brain and had a stroke … operating was not an option.”
While the official police statement is that Officer Sicknick “passed away due to injuries sustained while on duty”, no official cause of death has been released by the medical examiner.
The New York Times, the source of the anonymous fire extinguisher claim, has since updated its original story with the disclaimer: “New information has emerged regarding the death of the Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick that questions the initial cause of his death provided by officials close to the Capitol Police.”