Conflicts & War

Federal authorities join probe of cop’s death in US Capitol riot

Washington, Jan 8 (efe-epa).- The US Department of Justice plans to open a murder investigation into the death of a police officer during this week’s invasion of the Capitol by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump, media outlets said Friday.

Officer Brian Sicknick, 42, died at a Washington hospital of injuries received “while physically engaging with protesters,” the US Capitol Police (USCP) said.

Authorities did not provide details of the encounter, but The New York Times reported that Sicknick was struck with a fire extinguisher.

USCP Chief Steven Sund said that law enforcement officers were “actively attacked” with metal pipes and other weapons.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and fellow officers of US Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick, who succumbed last night to the injuries he suffered defending the US Capitol, against the violent mob who stormed it on January 6th,” the acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, said Friday in a statement.

“The FBI and Metropolitan Police Department will jointly investigate the case and the Department of Justice will spare no resources in investigating and holding accountable those responsible,” he said.

More than a dozen people are already facing federal charges for their part in Wednesday’s assault on the Capitol as lawmakers were meeting to certify the victory of Democrat Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Derek Evans, a Republican state legislator from West Virginia who posted since-removed videos of himself walking into the Capitol with the mob, has been charged with unlawfully entering a restricted area, federal prosecutor Ken Kohl said.

The rioter who posted images of himself with his feet on the desk of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Richard “Bigo” Barnett of Arkansas, was taken into custody Friday in Little Rock and is accused of stealing public property and disorderly conduct, among other offenses, Kohl said.

Authorities found a handgun, an assault rifle and 11 Molotov cocktails in a truck owned by protest participant Lonnie Coffman of Alabama, according to Kohl, the assistant US attorney for the District of Columbia.

Another rioter, Maryland resident Christopher Alberts, entered the Capitol with a handgun and a knife.

The charges announced Friday “are just the beginning” of efforts to bring the people who took part in the mayhem at the Capitol to justice, FBI Director Christopher Wray said.

“We will continue to aggressively investigate each and every individual who chose to ignore the law and instead incite violence, destroy property, and injure others,” he said in a statement.

The passing of Sicknick brought to five the death toll from Wednesday’s incident at the Capitol.

While three of the four deaths that occurred Wednesday were due to what authorities described as “separate medical emergencies” on the Capitol grounds, the fourth fatality was the result of action by an officer of the USCP.

“As protesters were forcing their way toward the House Chamber where Members of Congress were sheltering in place, a sworn USCP employee discharged their service weapon, striking an adult female,” the USCP said. “Medical assistance was rendered immediately, and the female was transported to the hospital where she later succumbed to her injuries.”

The woman was identified as Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old US Air Force veteran from California.

Besides expressing anger at Trump for instigating his supporters to march on the Capitol, lawmakers from both parties have been critical of the USCP for a lack of preparedness and Chief Sund is stepping down.

Researchers with the First Branch Forecast, a weekly newsletter from the Demand Progress Education Fund, wrote that the USCP’s annual budget, $515 million, is on a par with that of the police department of San Antonio, Texas, a city of 1.5 million people,

And the USCP, whose jurisdiction is limited to the Capitol and environs, has more officers than the police departments in major cities such as New Orleans and Atlanta. EFE hma/dr

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