It took nearly 3 1/2 months for the District of Columbia medical examiner's office to announce a cause of death for Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who helped defend the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot and died the next day in a local hospital. The medical examiner ruled that Sicknick died of natural causes, specifically, after suffering two strokes.

Medical examiner Francisco Diaz did not publicly release his report on Sicknick's death. Instead, much of the public's information comes from an interview Diaz gave to The Washington Post. Diaz told the paper that the autopsy "found no evidence the 42-year-old officer suffered an allergic reaction to chemical irritants, which Diaz said would have caused Sicknick's throat to quickly seize. Diaz also said there was no evidence of internal or external injuries."

So Sicknick did not die from the rioters striking him with a fire extinguisher or any other object, as originally reported. Nor did he die from being hit by bear spray, as was theorized after the fire extinguisher explanation fell apart.

Diaz also gave the Post a new timeline for the events leading up to Sicknick's death. "Sicknick collapsed seven hours and 40 minutes after he was sprayed, and then died nearly 24 hours after that," the medical examiner said. According to the federal indictment of two rioters charged in Sicknick's death, the officer was hit by bear spray at 2:23 p.m. on Jan. 6. That would mean he collapsed around 10 p.m. that night, and died around the same time the next night, Jan. 7.

There are still things the public does not know about the case. It is simply not clear what role, if any, Sicknick's participation in the fight to defend the Capitol played in his death. Diaz said "all that transpired played a role in his condition." But what role? And at the same time, Diaz "said he could not comment on whether Sicknick had a preexisting medical condition, citing privacy laws." So exactly how the riot might have contributed to Sicknick's death is not clear.

But finally, Americans know the basic facts of Sicknick's death. And that means a number of media organizations have a lot of explaining to do.

First among them is The New York Times, which on Jan. 8 — shortly after Sicknick's death — reported, "Pro-Trump supporters ... overpowered Mr. Sicknick, 42, and struck him in the head with a fire extinguisher, according to two law enforcement officials. With a bloody gash in his head, Mr. Sicknick was rushed to the hospital and placed on life support. He died on Thursday (Jan. 7) evening."

The Times' wrong report stirred enormous emotion among millions of Americans already upset about the Capitol riot. Newscasts on CNN, MSNBC and the broadcast networks repeated the Times report frequently and uncritically. Some commentators went around the bend. When Republican Sen. Mike Lee suggested President Donald Trump should get a "mulligan" for the speech he gave at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough responded, "You don't get a mulligan when you kill a cop, Mike. When you ... bash police officers' brains with fire extinguishers, you don't get a mulligan. Especially if you're the one responsible for bringing those cop killers up to Capitol Hill."

The entire tirade was based on a false account of Sicknick's death.

The bottom line is that false account became an integral part of the national conversation about the Capitol riot. Now, the damage from that false account cannot be undone. But the news organizations and commentators who fed the frenzy should report the medical examiner's findings and their implications prominently and accurately — and tell viewers and readers that they had it wrong.

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Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.

(2) comments


This opinion piece is an argument written in bad faith. What is the point of writing this? To absolve the insurrectionists who stormed the capitol on January 6th of the death of officer Sicknick?

There is video evidence of rioters beating officer Sicknick with an American flag...There is video showing rioters beating officer Sicknick with a fire extinguisher and macing him. What more do you need? I am not a medical expert, but I would wager that being struck in the head with a fire extinguisher to the point that it causes a bloody gash - there is a chance that internal bleeding will occur and cause brain swelling later in the day. Where are the cries that Blue Lives Matter now?

This opinion piece is an attempt to downplay the treasonous insurrection of January 6th. This opinion piece is an attempt to absolve those treasonous murderers responsible for the death of Officer Sicknick.

I am disappointed with the Watauga Democrat posting this opinion article while the front page of their website is dominated by coverage of the two officers who were just killed in Watauga County.

Where are the opinion pieces about the lackluster mental health care in our community? Where are the articles showing that when people say Defund the Police, they mean invest in community mental health services so that way when someone is in crisis a family can turn to safe sources and not have armed officers reporting to the seen.

Be better y'all.


Yeah, I wouldn't hold your breath. Every since the WD sold out to a larger publisher a few years back (one with a history of supporting almost solely right-wing groups/ideas), and one that I might note is *far* from being "local" (and is not even housed in this state!) don't expect to see anything in that regard anytime soon. If it does not fit within their neatly confined narrative of (ultra) right-wing conservatism, don't expect to read about it here. From their ongoing BS puff pieces on GOP politicians, to their continual support and printing of right-wing (national) Op-Ed's like Byron York and Thomas Hood's garbage, this paper has become nothing more than a right-wing rag with no semblance whatsoever of actual journalism.

Even their name is complete farce...

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