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Key Senate Republican demands Capitol Police explain initial misreporting of officer's death

Sen. Ron Johnson

Updated: April 22, 2021 - 3:41pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

A key Senate Republican on Thursday demanded the Capitol Police explain why it initially reported that Officer Brian Sicknick died from injuries sustained in the Jan.  6 riot when in fact his death was ruled to be naturally caused by strokes.

"The death of any police officer is a tragedy and the use of any officer’s death for political purposes or to create a false narrative is reprehensible and disrespectful to the officer’s family and the officer’s memory," Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., wrote in a letter to Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda D. Pittman.

You can read the full letter here:

Johnson's letter specifically zeroed in on a Jan. 7 statement the police force issued claiming Sicknick died from “injuries sustained while on-duty after physically engaging with protestors” during the riot.

The senator noted earlier this week that the Washington DC Chief Medical Examiner Francisco Diaz concluded that Sicknick “suffered two strokes and died of natural causes a day after he confronted rioters" and that his body exhibited "no evidence of internal or external injuries."

Johnson, the top Republican on the powerful Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, also challenged subsequent reporting claiming Sicknick may have suffered a fatal reaction and died from bear pepper spray dispersed by the rioters.

"Dr. Diaz stated that Sicknick’s autopsy found no evidence that he suffered an allergic reaction to chemical irritants," Johnson wrote.

Johnson suggested the initial police statement and erroneous reporting led to a "false reports" in the public -- including that he was fatally struck by a fire extinguisher -- that persisted for three months until the autopsy findings.

"This finding raises more questions about what USCP knew and what actions USCP took to confirm certain facts regarding Officer Sicknick’s death before it released its January 7 statement," he wrote.

Johnson demanded the police answer eight questions including why its initial report of Sicknick's death was so wrong, why it wasn't corrected sooner and whether the USCP's internal affairs unit has been asked to investigate the initial inaccurate reporting.