Biden, Congress honour police officer killed in Capitol riot

Officer Brian Sicknick is the fifth person to ‘lie in honor’ at the US Capitol, a special designation for US civilians.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden pay their respects to late Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick [Erin Schaff/Pool via Reuters]

US members of Congress on Wednesday paid sombre respects to Brian Sicknick, the police officer who died defending the Capitol from a mob of far-right supporters of former President Donald Trump.

The cremated remains of Sicknick, who died of his injuries the day after the January 6 attack, arrived on Tuesday night to lie in honour in the Capitol Rotunda until midday Wednesday.

After a prayer of invocation, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer began the commemoration by saying Sicknick was a 12-year member of the Capitol police force and “peacekeeper, not only in duty, but in spirit.”

The Democratic leader did not know Sicknck, but from speaking with his colleagues and family, Schumer said he grew to know the fallen officer.

Schumer described Sicknick as a “kind and humble man with profound strength”, and the “high price” Sicknick was “forced to pay was a senseless tragedy”.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the US will never forget Sicknick’s sacrifice to “protect the US Congress”.

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi attends a ceremony for late Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick as he lies in honor in the Rotunda of the US Capitol in Washington, February 3, 2021 [Carlos Barria/Pool via Reuters]

Ahead of the ceremony, Democratic and Republican leaders of the US Congress filed into the Rotunda for the ceremony. One by one, Sicknick’s fellow Capitol Police officers approached the receptacle containing the remains and saluted.

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden paid respects to Sicknick Tuesday night. Biden and his wife stood before the remains with their hands over their hearts in silent tribute to Sicknick.

The January 6 riot at the Capitol saw Trump supporters storm the building and interrupted the electoral count after then-President Trump urged supporters on the National Mall to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat.

Trump and his allies had pushed refuted claims about the election giving Biden the victory for months before the riot. Four others died in the violence.

An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of then-US President Donald Trump gather in front of the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021 [File: Leah Millis/Reuters]

Sicknick, 42, was pepper-sprayed and hit in the head during the riot, according to his father. An ambulance crew resuscitated him twice as he was rushed to a nearby hospital. He died the next day.

The US Capitol Police said in a statement Sicknick was injured “while physically engaging with protesters”, though a final cause of death has not yet been determined.

No charges have been brought in the case, but federal and local law enforcement have brought charges against more than 130 of the rioters.

The incident led to Trump’s historic second impeachment and next week he will face trial in the Senate on a charge of inciting insurrection.

Trump’s lawyers argued on Tuesday that legislators cannot legally impeach a former president and he once again stoked claims of voter fraud.

Since the 19th century, the caskets of about three dozen distinguished Americans have been honoured at the Capitol. Twelve have been former presidents, who, along with other government officials, judges and military leaders are said to “lie in state”.

The category of “laying in honor” was created after two Capitol Police officers were fatally wounded in 1998 by a gunman who ran to the offices of then-Majority Whip Tom DeLay.

US Capitol Police officers wait for the remains of late Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died on January 7 from injuries he sustained during the January 6 attack on the building [Tasos Katopodis/Pool via Reuters]

Sicknick, who had served in the New Jersey Air National Guard, joined the Capitol Police in 2008. Following the tribute ceremony, his remains will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery, the historic military burial ground located a few miles from the US Capitol in Virginia.

Sicknick is the fifth American to lie in honour in the Rotunda. The others who have lain in honour were John Gibson and Jacob Chestnut Jr, the Capitol Police officers slain in 1998; civil rights leader Rosa Parks, who died in 2005; and the Reverend Billy Graham, who died in 2018.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies