The medical examiner in the United States capital has ruled that police officer Brian Sicknick, who was sprayed by a chemical substance during the January 6 riot at the US Capitol, died a day later of natural causes after suffering two strokes.
In a report released on Monday, the Washington, DC, medical examiner’s office said Sicknick died after suffering strokes brought on by blood clots at the base of his brain.
The official cause of death was “acute brainstem and cerebellar infarcts due to artery thrombosis”.
The coroner’s report said Sicknick was sprayed with a chemical substance outside the US Capitol in the afternoon on January 6, as hundreds of rioters were seeking to overrun the building.
The 42-year-old collapsed several hours later and was transported to a local hospital, where he died the next night.
US Department of Justice prosecutors have charged two men, Julian Khater and George Tanios, with assault with a deadly weapon, after investigators said they sprayed at least three officers, including Sicknick, with a powerful chemical agent, possibly bear spray.
The DC medical examiner’s report means that Sicknick’s death was caused by disease, not other factors such as injury, and is neither a homicide nor the result of an accident. The autopsy found no evidence that Sicknick had suffered an allergic reaction.
Sicknick was among hundreds of police offers who fought with rioters seeking to overrun the US Capitol on January 6.
“All that transpired played a role in his condition,” DC Chief Medical Examiner Dr Francisco Diaz told The Washington Post newspaper.
Acting US Attorney Jeffrey Rosen said in a statement on January 8, after it appeared Sicknick had died from injuries sustained in the riot, that the Justice Department would “spare no resources in investigating and holding accountable those responsible”.
The DC medical examiner’s ruling now makes it very difficult for federal prosecutors to bring murder charges against the two men arrested and charged with assaulting Sicknick and other officers during the riot.
Sicknick’s remains laid in honour on February inside the US Capitol rotunda, where legislators and President Joe Biden paid their respects.