Police officer in Capitol riot died from stroke: coroner

Police push back supporters of US President Donald Trump after they stormed the Capitol building on January 6, 2021
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The police officer who died following the attack on the US Capitol by supporters of president Donald Trump in January was killed by two strokes, the Washington city coroner ruled Monday.

Brian Sicknick was one of five people, and the only police officer, who died in direct connection to the January 6 insurrection, when hundreds of pro-Trump rioters attacked and overran police to force their way into the seat of US government, shutting the building down.

Initial reports, later ruled incorrect, said Sicknick had been hit by a fire extinguisher. Later reports tied his death to being sprayed with chemical irritants like bear spray or pepper spray.

But the city's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled Monday that Sicknick, 42, had died from "natural" causes.

The official report attributed the Capitol Police officer's death to "acute brainstem and cerebellar infarcts due to acute basilar artery thrombosis" -- a particularly devastating form of stroke with a high death rate, caused by blockages in the brain.

It noted that he had been sprayed with a chemical substance at about 2:20 pm during the assault on Congress. At 10:00 pm, he collapsed at the Capitol and was taken to the hospital. Almost 24 hours later he died while still in the hospital.

The report made no link between the spray and Sicknick's collapse.

Francisco Diaz, the chief medical examiner, told The Washington Post there was no evidence that the officer had an allergic reaction to the chemicals, nor did he show any other internal or external injuries.

However, Diaz told the Post that "all that transpired played a role in his condition."

Sicknick's collapse and death supported widespread accusations that Trump and his followers had contributed to the death of a policeman, and the FBI had investigated those involved for possible murder charges.

Many of the hundreds arrested after the attack have been charged with assaulting and injuring dozens of law enforcement officials who were defending the Capitol.

Four others died that day. One woman, Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran who embraced conspiracy theories, was shot by a Capitol Police officer as she tried to break through a security door inside the Capitol.

Last week the Washington federal prosecutor ruled that the officer was legally justified in opening fire on Babbitt.

Of the three others who died, two men suffered from heart attacks or strokes; while a woman died from an amphetamine overdose, according to the coroner's office.

In the days after the attack on the Congress, two Capitol Police officers died by suicide.