Two Arrested in Officer Sicknick Assault

On Sunday, the government arrested two men, Julian Elie Khater and George Pierre Tanios, on charges of conspiring to attack three police officers, including Brian Sicknick.

According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Khater and Tanios were at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and were observed in video footage working together to assault law enforcement officers with an unknown chemical substance by spraying officers directly in the face and eyes.  During the investigation, it is alleged that law enforcement discovered video that depicted Khater asking Tanios to “give me that bear s*it.” Tanios replied, “Hold on, hold on, not yet, not yet… it’s still early.”  Khater then retrieved a canister from Tanios’ backpack and walked through the crowd to within a few steps of the police perimeter.  The video shows Khater with his right arm up high in the air, appearing to be holding a canister in his right hand and aiming it at the officers’ direction while moving his right arm from side to side.  The complaint affidavit states that Officers Sicknick, Edwards, and Chapman, who were all standing within a few feet of Khater, each reacted to being sprayed in the face.  The officers retreated, bringing their hands to their faces and rushing to find water to wash out their eyes.

The substance Khater allegedly sprayed caused scabs on the face of one of the officers hit, Officer Edwards, for weeks. All struck with it said the substance was as strong as anything they’ve encountered in their experience as police officers. In addition to assault charges, both were charged with conspiracy to assault police reflecting a degree of planning and intentionality.

31 replies
  1. MissingGeorgeCarlin says:

    These people need to be treated like the serious, dangerous criminals they are.

    This will almost certainly happen again if all these folks are treated with the proverbial “kid gloves”.

    I’m an old white guy and am tired of white privilege in this society….just saying….enough is enough.

    • TominAZ says:

      Same here. OWG and appalled and saddened. I know I don’t have the time to see the finish. I think we are in big trouble and it was only the incompetence of Trump and his at the top that put a glitch into a 40-50 year plan to get rid of this inconvenient democracy hindrance to ‘the way things should be, election or not.’ It is now or never, and we should not forget this. Hope we as a country decide to keep it, and deal with all the dark and rich parts of this fascist dream, finally.
      Stay safe, all.
      Tom in AZ

  2. P J Evans says:

    That stuff isn’t intended to be sprayed in faces at close range. Chemical burns, I would think.

    • Wajim says:

      Well, assuming it was “bear spray,” yes, it really is, but bear faces, not bare (human) faces. I’ve used it, once long ago against a black bear and it’s very potent stuff.

  3. Silly but True says:

    Was not quite expecting Egyptian and Lebanese surnames for the guy(s) who likely caused the death of a Capital Police officer.

  4. gmoke says:

    “Bear spray contains 1–2% capsaicin and related capsaicinoids, the key active ingredients.”

    “Although pepper spray and bear spray contain the same active chemical, they are not the same thing. Bear spray has a much lower concentration of oleoresin capsicum, and should only be used as a bear deterrent.

    “Pepper spray is a self defense weapon intended to incapacitate human threats, and it is very effective at doing this due to its higher concentration of oleoresin capsicum. If you are serious about self defense, go purchase some pepper spray. If you are a hiker or camper in bear country, buy some bear spray.

    “What’s more, bear spray is designed to put out a wide cloud, filling the air with droplets, discouraging the bear from attacking. On the other hand, pepper spray is a targeted stream designed to incapacitate a person close to you.”

    Why a “weaker” version of tear gas or pepper spray should result in the death of Officer Sicknick, if it is the reaction to the bear spray that killed him and if it was bear spray that was used on him, is still an open question to me. But then I’m just an interested observer, watching from a great distance.

    • Rugger9 says:

      The autopsy would answer your question and since charges have been filed it will come out no later than the trial. I don’t remember seeing this document yet in the public record.

      If murder charges are contemplated, then the autopsy provides / proves the cause to the effect. I’m sure one was done for that reason.

    • PieIsDamnGood says:

      I think bear spray creates more tiny droplets that you can inhale, rather than a liquid getting into the mucusy bits on your face. I could see a deep breathe of bear spray causing serious damage to the lungs, especially if a whole can was emptied on them. That plus a co-morbidity could do someone in. But it seems reasonable an autopsy would show some lung damage?

      I don’t think that prosecutors are claiming a direct link between the bear spray and his death at this point.

      • bmaz says:

        They clearly are not drawing the link, at least not yet. Which you would think means either one of two things 1) they can’t draw it; or 2) For some reason do not want to directly yet. The forensic autopsy would have been done for a long time now, even including full toxicology screening. So, we shall see I guess….

        • Leoghann says:

          A statement from the DC ME office, quoted in the Washington Post this morning, said they don’t yet have the autopsy results, so they can’t yet classify Sicknick as a homicide. It mentioned that toxicology wasn’t complete. (Yeah, sounds like obfuscation.)

        • CCM says:

          Capisum related death would most likely be due to bronchospasm, i.e. asthma. May not be seen on autopsy.

          • bmaz says:

            Eh, if the medical examiners don’t know to look for such, it might get missed. But when they have basis to look more carefully at tissues and fluids, and they clearly did here, they will find it. There is a difference between routine tox screens, and what would be done here.

            • CCM says:

              He probably did not die of a direct toxic effect of the spray. The stress of the assault triggered a cardiac event or stroke. Bronchospasm resulting in hypoxia may have played a role. The death certificate, medical records and autopsy all would provide pieces of the puzzle. None are publically available. I suspect if all the info was available the cause would be straightforward.

        • BobCon says:

          I know this isn’t what you’re saying, but in case anyone has any doubts, in real life autoposies for homicide cases aren’t like TV.

          Getting hit with a spray and then having a fatal repspiratory attack isn’t necessarily sufficient to prove in court that the spray caused the death. Coroners can have a heck of time ruling out possibilities that may lead to a successful defense — the science isn’t necessarily precise enough to do that, even if the medical examiner is confident of their conclusions.

          • bmaz says:

            No, they are not like TV at all. Not even close. But it is not their job to prove anything in court, it is merely their job to call a probable cause of death, and say why. If you ever have a chance to go witness an autopsy at your local coroner’s office, do. It is both eye opening and sickening at the same instant.

    • harpie says:

      They haven’t said [yet] that it was the bear spray that caused Sicknick’s death. They are saying that it took him out of commission for about 20 minutes. I think Khater and Tanios are alleged to have committed assault [with the bear spray], and conspiracy to assault, for now.

      • Leoghann says:

        The charging documents go into some detail outlining the appearance that the two were working together, in an “obvious conspiracy” to assault and harm officers, including the quote from Khater, “give me some of that bear shit.” Although there’s nothing yet linking those two to any others, there’s language that indicates that’s where the prosecutors are headed.

    • Mars says:

      Just because these yahoos call it “bear spray” that doesn’t mean that’s what it was, could have been some homebrew they were anxious to try out. I lost my copy of the Anarchists’ Cookbook, I wouldn’t know.

    • gmoke says:

      Would bear spray produce “chemical burns” as reported on the face of another officer? The two people arrested called it “bear spray” but was it? I suspect we’ll eventually discover that as the case comes to trial. I just have my own doubts, at this point, from my great distance away from the reality.

  5. Silly but True says:

    Also, while the “bear lobby” is not nonexistent, the safety and liability criteria for testing and marketed products as bear deterrent is quite different than the safety and liability criteria for testing and liability for anti-personal mace/pepper spray for use on humans.

    Bear Spray has to meet “humane” standard for EPA.

    But chances are, the stuff sprayed on the officers is likely up to 50% more potent than anything made specifically for use against humans, and probably 50% more potent than anything Capitol Police were using against rioters.

    (Also, if people were shooting wasp spray, that’s absolutely a poison and could cause severe reactions and death in people.)

    • bmaz says:

      Good wasp spray not just a poison, but a straight up deadly neurotoxin. I’d take bear spray over that stuff.

    • Lawnboy says:

      First time reading about the use of wasp spray. That would be very nasty, however; most of those are synthetic plant base AI. Bear spray has LD50 for the vector and the pepper. The capsicum being 50mg/kg body weight oral (mouse), 3000 mg/kg oral (rat). Table salt is 2200 mg/kg oral. BUT, I see the dermal LD50 for a mouse is 500 ish.

      Horticulture chemicals I used raised alarms when less than 500 on the scale, the worst being 5mg/kg of body weight oral. That puppy required a full rubber suit up, respirator, no drink/food, and a shower after.

      FYI, Gravol is 5!!!!!

      A sad thing for the officer either way.

  6. harpie says:

    3. Injuries to Officers
    Officers Sicknick, Edwards, and Chapman suffered injuries as a result of being sprayed in the face with an unknown substance by KHATER. […]
    – -The officers were temporary blinded […]
    – – All three officers were incapacitated and unable to perform their duties for at least 20 minutes or longer while they recovered from the spray. […]
    – -Officer Edwards reported lasting injuries underneath her eyes, including scabbing that remained on her face for weeks. […]
    – -Officer Sicknick reported to his supervisors and colleagues that he had been sprayed in the face with a substance.

    • Leoghann says:

      It’s interesting that Khater isn’t a US citizen, according to his testimony. When interviewed, he and Tanios said they grew up together in New Jersey.

  7. punaise says:

    Just opening the new issue of Harper’s Magazine, with a cover asking if we are headed to a new civil war: « Polarization, Tribalism, Dysfunction : Are we living through another Antebellum era? »

  8. harpie says:

    Marcy retweeted this:

    Biden Justice Department wields controversial Trump-era legal tools
    Federal prosecutors are invoking a 1968-era statute to pursue rioters, spurring accusations of racism.
    JOSH GERSTEIN 03/15/2021 10:49 PM

    President Joe Biden’s Justice Department is defending its use of an anti-riot statute that critics say is racist — a tool the Trump-era DOJ made aggressive use of to pursue some of those accused of violence in connection with last year’s racial justice protests.

    The government’s detailed new defense of the law came in the case against Kevin Phomma, an Oregon man charged with assaulting police officers last August during a protest outside a Portland Immigration and Customs Enforcement building.

    Phomma is accused of deploying bear spray at police […]

    • harpie says:

      […] While the historical roots of the 1968 statute are clearly rooted in backlash to the civil rights movement, the Capitol riot cases might not suffer from the main legal infirmity defense lawyers are complaining about in the cases stemming from last year’s protests.

      That’s because the Capitol cases rely on language in the statute aimed at preventing interference with “any federally protected function,” but the cases from last year’s unrest establish federal jurisdiction by claiming the crimes took place during protests that interfered with interstate commerce. […]

  9. e.a.f. says:

    Its good the two men have been arrested. A person doing their job is dead because of the actions of others, which were unlawful. Its one thing to march in protests, but actively trying to get into the Capitol buildings to injure other people because you don’t agree with them, not consistent with a democracy.

    The actions of those arrested allegedly led to the death of a police officer. A court will have the final say on that. However, had there not been these riots and all the violence this police officer would not have died nor would others. those who participated in these actions needs to be held to account for their actions. The families of those who died have lost a great deal.

    I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around what happened 6 Jan. Then I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around the bombing by Timothy McVeigh In Oklahoma City. In both cases so many innocent people died. People just trying to do their jobs, going about their lives and then it was all over.

    As many things that are wrong in the U.S.A., there is a whole lot which is right with the country. Killing never improved conditions. I remember the marches by the Civil Rights Movement which brought about changes. Killing only leaves a lot of kids without their parents and wondering why their parent had to die. Perhaps its time some of these terrorist rioters heard from the children of the people whose deaths they caused. They didn’t just kill a police officer, they killed some one’s parent, some one’s spouse, some one’s brother. Those people will never get over it.

    Never agreed with Pence’s politics, but to hear rioters shouting hang Mike Pence was truly awful. They wanted to kill Pelosi. It may have been Pence and Pelosi were symbols of what they hated, but did any of them stop to think Pelosi was the Grandmother of 8 children. That Pence has three children.

    It is hoped the American judicial system will deal with those arrested and send a signal to future terrorists, this is not on. It will not be tolerated and you will go to jail if found guilty. Did any of those terrorists stop to think of how their families would re act or be impacted by their actions on 6 Jan.

    Perhaps people could take some time out to think of the ramifications of their actions and the impact it will have on their own families and the families of their targets. There are a lot of children involved who didn’t ask for any of this.

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