Corrections and clarifications: The Associated Press, citing unidentified sources, reported in January that Officer Brian Sicknick may have been hit in the head by a fire extinguisher. But no official cause of death has been released, and U.S. Capitol Police have said only that he died “due to injuries sustained while on-duty.”
WASHINGTON – Leaders in Congress paid tribute to fallen U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who lay in honor Wednesday at the Capitol Rotunda before his interment at Arlington National Cemetery.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., praised the 42-year-old officer as a "hero" for his efforts Jan. 6 to stop a pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol trying to stop the congressional counting of Electoral College votes for then-President-elect Joe Biden.
“Our promise to Brian's family is that we will never forget his sacrifice. ... We will never forget,” Pelosi said during the somber ceremony as she turned to address his relatives and friends. “With your permission, may we be worthy to carry Brian in our hearts. We will never forget.”
The tradition of lying in honor at the Capitol Rotunda as a tribute to distinguished Americans began in 1852. Historically, it has been reserved for military officers and elected officials who have "lain in state." More recently, Congress has allowed preeminent citizens to "lie in honor."
President Biden and first lady Jill Biden came to the Capitol Tuesday evening after the ceremonial arrival of Sicknick's remains, which Capitol Police officers were invited to view.
The first couple stood with their hands over their hearts, then Biden reached out to touch the wooden box holding Sicknick's remains. Biden said a prayer, made the sign of the cross and walked over to view the wreaths.
The 42-year-old officer was injured during the hours-long attack on the Capitol. He died from his injuries the next day at a hospital. The Associated Press, citing unidentified sources, reported that Sicknick may have been hit in the head by a fire extinguisher. But no official cause of death has been released, and U.S. Capitol Police have said only that he died “due to injuries sustained while on-duty” and provided no other details.
He joins two other Capitol Police officers who received the honor after dying in the line of duty: Officer Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson, who were fatally shot in 1998 when an armed intruder got past a security checkpoint at the Capitol.
“The courage of these heroes brings honor, brings luster to our Constitution and to our democracy," Pelosi said, referring to the three officers.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called Sicknick "a peacekeeper who loved his dogs and his girlfriend, Sandra (Garza), and his family and the New Jersey Devils. He was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, on a day when peace was shattered."
"That Brian and his family were made to pay such a high price for his devoted service in the Capitol was a senseless tragedy, one that we are still grappling with," Schumer said. "It has left deep scars here in this building (and) among his friends and his colleagues.”
Sicknick was one of five people who died as a result of the riot at the Capitol. At least 140 officers in the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia and the U.S. Capitol Police were injured. Two others, Jeffrey Smith of the district police and Howard Liebengood of the Capitol Police, died by suicide in the weeks after the attack.
Silence filled the rotunda as members of the Capitol Police force, National Guard and others paid their respects to Sicknick in groups or individually. Most saluted the fallen officer.
An American flag was placed next to the box holding Sicknick's remains in front of three wreaths representing the Senate, the House and the Capitol Police.
For the ceremonial departure, dozens of police officers lined up along the East Front of the Capitol. The American flag on top of the building flew at half-staff.
Two officers carried Sicknick’s remains and the folded American flag down the Capitol stairs as bagpipes played “Amazing Grace.”
A hearse took the remains to Arlington National Cemetery with a Capitol Police escort.
After the ceremony, officers walked back into the Capitol to return to their work. Some of those standing stoically outside during Sicknick's ceremonial departure embraced each other. Inside a Capitol entrance where lawmakers, officers and staff normally enter the building, two officers silently hugged.
Other lawmakers offered their respects to Sicknick on Wednesday morning, and Vice President Kamala Harris came with second gentleman Doug Emhoff.
They placed their hands over their hearts and put their hands on the small box in the middle of the rotunda holding Sicknick's remains.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Brian Sicknick: Lawmakers pay tribute to fallen Capitol Police officer