By Spencer S. Hsu and Peter Hermann, Federal authorities have arrested and charged two men with assaulting U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick with an unknown chemical spray during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot but have not determined whether the exposure caused his death. Julian Elie Khater, 32, of Pennsylvania and George Pierre Tanios, 39 of Morgantown, W.Va., were arrested Sunday and were expected to appear in federal court Monday. “Give me that bear sh--,” Khater allegedly said to Tanios on video recorded at 2:14 p.m. at the Lower West Terrace of the Capitol, where Sicknick and other officers were standing guard behind metal bicycle racks, arrest papers say. About nine minutes later, after Khater said he had been sprayed with something, Khater is seen on video discharging a canister of a toxic substance into the face of Sicknick and two other officers, arrest papers allege. Khater and Tanios are charged with nine counts, including assaulting three officers with a deadly weapon — Sicknick, another U.S. Capitol Police officer identified as C. Edwards and a D.C. police officer identified as B. Chapman. They are also charged with civil disorder and obstruction of a congressional proceeding. The charges are punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors filed charges after tipsters contacted the FBI allegedly identifying Khater and Tanios from wanted images released by the bureau from surveillance video and officer-worn body-camera footage, the complaint said. It said that the men grew up together in New Jersey, that Khater had worked in State College, Pa., and that Tanios owns a business in Morgantown. Tanios’s sister, Maria Boutros, a real estate agent in New Jersey, said when reached by phone Monday that her brother “was arrested for something he didn’t do. He didn’t do it. He would never do that.” [Read the charging affidavit here] Khater was arrested Sunday in Newark, according to an unsealed arrest warrant signed by U.S. Magistrate Zia Faruqui on March 6. Family for Khater could not be immediately reached. They are among more than 300 who have been charged in what the government has called the “Capitol Attack.” With at least 100 more expected to be charged in the event, prosecutors have said it will probably be one of the largest investigations and prosecutions in American history. Questions remain about whether anyone will be held criminally responsible in Sicknick’s death. Autopsy results for Sicknick were still pending as of Monday, according to a spokeswoman for the deputy mayor of public safety in D.C. Without a cause of death, his case has not been established as a homicide, although charging papers allege that evidence of an assault on Sicknick is clear on video. An FBI agent alleged in charging papers that publicly available video showed that after Khater asked for the bear spray, Tanios replied: “Hold on, hold on, not yet, not yet . . . it’s still early.” The agent said the exchange showed that the two allegedly were “working in concert and had a plan to use the toxic spray against law enforcement.” The agent asserted that the men “appeared to time the deployment of chemical substances to coincide with other rioters’ efforts to forcibly remove the bike rack barriers that were preventing the rioters from moving closer to the Capitol building,” using their hands, ropes and straps. All three officers were temporarily blinded and incapacitated for more than 20 minutes “as a result of being sprayed in the face with an unknown substance by Khater,” and Edwards sustained scarring beneath her eyes for several weeks, charging papers said. Charging papers include a photograph that the FBI agent said allegedly shows Khater “holding a white can with a black top that appears to be a can of chemical spray.” It adds that the officers reported the substance to be “as strong as, if not stronger than, any version of pepper spray they had been exposed to” in their police training. Sicknick died at a hospital about 9:30 p.m. Jan. 7, one day after the Capitol riot. Authorities have said that 139 police officers were assaulted by Trump supporters wielding sledgehammers, baseball bats, hockey sticks, crutches and flagpoles. At least 800 people entered the Capitol after a smaller number forced entry, police have testified, seeking to block Congress from confirming the November presidential election victory of Joe Biden. In early February, Sicknick, 42, who grew up in South River, N.J., became the third officer in history to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda, where fellow officers, lawmakers and President Biden and first lady Jill Biden came to pay respects to the 13-year Capitol Police veteran and former New Jersey Air National Guard member. [FBI focuses on video of Capitol Police officer being sprayed with chemicals] Authorities have included Sicknick among five people who died as a result of the riot. The four others were civilians — Ashli Babbitt, 35, who was shot by an officer, and three others who died in the chaos. Referring to Sicknick, a House-passed article of impeachment charged Trump with inciting insurrection, alleging that members of a crowd he addressed “injured and killed law enforcement personnel.” Trump was acquitted after 57 senators voted to convict him for inciting the attack, 10 short of the two-thirds majority needed. Then-acting U.S. attorney general Jeffrey A. Rosen said in a statement shortly afterward that Sicknick died of “the injuries he suffered defending the U.S. Capitol,” echoing a statement by Capitol Police. The Capitol Police said that Sicknick “was injured while physically engaging with protesters” and collapsed after he returned to his office following the riot. It remains unclear what role if any the charged assault played in Sicknick’s death. Investigators determined that he did not die of blunt force trauma, people familiar with the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. After more than two months, no toxicology results have been made public. The case remains a top priority for investigators — including the FBI, Capitol Police and D.C. police, which handles all deaths in the District — with Rosen saying authorities would “spare no resources in investigating and holding accountable those responsible.” [Sicknick recalled for his ‘shared humanity’] The day after Sicknick died, his family issued a statement noting “many details regarding Wednesday’s events and the direct causes of Brian’s injuries remain unknown and our family asks the public and the press to respect our wishes in not making Brian’s passing a political issue.” That statement was in part an attempt to quell rumors circulating on social media that purported to show videos of attacks on Sicknick, and possible suspects. The family added, “Brian is a hero and that is what we would like people to remember.” Sicknick’s family has not spoken publicly, and their spokeswoman said in February they decided against conducting interviews. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) paid tribute to Sicknick on the Senate floor, saying the officer understood “that wearing that uniform, wearing that badge, that you had a sacred duty to protect this sacred space.” The senator described Sicknick’s death as a “crime” that “demands the full attention of federal law enforcement.” He said that “when white supremacists attacked our nation’s capital, they took the life of one of our officers. They spilled his blood, they took a son away from his parents. They took a sibling away from their brothers.” [Beaten, sprayed with mace and hit with stun guns: Police describe injuries to dozens of officers during assault on U.S. Capitol] Sicknick joined the New Jersey Air National Guard in 1997 and had been assigned to the 108th Air Refueling Wing out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. The Guard said he deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1999 and to Kyrgyzstan in 2003. Though Sicknick supported Trump, those who encountered him said his political views did not align neatly with one political party. Messages he sent to his congressman, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), were “polite and measured,” according to the lawmaker’s spokesman. He opposed impeachment and favored gun control. He was concerned about animal cruelty and the national debt. During the ceremony honoring Sicknick at the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) described him as a “peacekeeper, not only in duty but in spirit.” Julie Tate, Alice Crites and Emily Davies contributed to this report. Read more: Battle for the West Terrace: Capitol riot charges reveal details of police attacks on Jan. 6 Justice calls Jan. 6 ‘Capitol Attack’ probe one of largest in U.S. history, expects at least 400 to be charged Buffalo man charged with stealing radio, badge from D.C. officer pulled into crowd during Capitol riot
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