Surprisingly little is known about what caused the five deaths, other than the shooting of Ashli Babbit, or the circumstances surrounding the deaths.
You may have noticed that quite often when the MSM refers to the Capitol riots of January 6 the word “riots” is modified by the word “deadly”. And of course this is correct: those riots were deadly. But what do we now know about those deaths?
Surprisingly little, considering that a month has passed since January 6 and the coverage of the riots has been nothing if not intense. And yet, for the most part, the initial “fog of war” reports have not been substantially modified.
By saying that the riots were deadly – and often adding that five people were killed – the articles may encourage readers to forget the nature of those deaths and even to fill in the blanks with the thought that the rioters killed five people and killed them purposely. But three of those deaths were described this way in a January 7 article:
Those people were Rosanne Boyland, 34, of Kennesaw, Georgia; Kevin Greeson, 55, of Athens, Alabama; and Benjamin Phillips, 50, of Ringtown, Pennsylvania, the Metropolitan Police Department said.
Boyland collapsed at the Capitol, where police performed CPR, 11Alive.com reported. She was taken to a hospital, but did not survive.
Greeson’s family said in a statement that the Trump supporter suffered a heart attack during the chaos, The News Courier reported.
Phillips, who had organized a group to drive to Washington, D.C., from his home state, died of an apparent stroke after being taken to George Washington University Hospital, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
It sounds as though the deaths of Greeson and Phillips were probably natural events, perhaps brought on by stress. We have other articles such as this one from Reuters headlined, “Trump to blame for death of woman trampled in Capitol riot, family member says.” In it, 34-year-old Rosanne Boyland’s death is described this way:
The brother-in-law of a woman killed during Wednesday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol by a mob seeking to overturn President Donald Trump’s election loss said he blames Trump for the riot, and has joined calls for him to be removed from office…
Police did not disclose the cause of Boyland’s death.
However, Justin Winchell, a friend who accompanied Boyland to a Trump rally near the White House and marched with her to the Capitol, told Atlanta CBS affiliate WGCL that she was trampled to death in a massive crowd surge when protesters clashed with Capitol Police…
Asked if Trump was to blame for his friend’s death, Winchell said: “Does he have blood on his hands? No!”
Here’s a description and some video alleged to be of what Winchell is describing above, and featuring one man who attacks an officer with a hockey stick (the man, named Michael Foy, is a Detroit resident now in custody, who is alleged to have suffered recently from substance abuse and mental health problems).
Then we have demonstrator Ashli Babbit, who died from being shot by a person who is reportedly a member of the Capitol Police. The rioters certainly didn’t kill her, and we’ve had very little official word on her death except for the existence of an investigation. We don’t know the identity of the person who shot her, either.
Which leaves the fifth person who died, Capitol Police Officer Sicknick. Again, so far we know very little in terms of statements from officials, although there are certainly many rumors.
Some people may think reports such as this one, of the arrests of rioters who allegedly tried “to crush an officer who was pinned by a mob as it tried to break into the building,” may be describing the infliction of the injuries that might have caused Sicknick’s death. There is video of the alleged crushing – but that video does not involve Officer Sicknick, and the officer in that video did not die.
You may also have read reports that Officer Sicknick was hit in the head by a fire extinguisher thrown or wielded by a rioter and died as a result of that head injury, but the source of that report was not an official statement of the Capitol Police. Their press statement can be found here. The way it is written it’s very difficult to tell what happened, except that some injury to the officer seems to have occurred while the riot was ongoing and he was engaging with protestors. The report doesn’t say his injury was sustained at anyone’s hands, it doesn’t say what the injury was, it doesn’t say how long it was between the injury and his death, it doesn’t say why his injury did not cause him to go to the hospital and why he just went back to his division office (where he collapsed), and it doesn’t mention a fire extinguisher. It also doesn’t say on what basis the Capitol Police concluded he died of that injury or injuries, as opposed to some other cause such as a heart attack:
At approximately 9:30 p.m. this evening (January 7, 2021), United States Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick passed away due to injuries sustained while on-duty.
Officer Sicknick was responding to the riots on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol and was injured while physically engaging with protesters. He returned to his division office and collapsed. He was taken to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
Sicknick’s death is being investigated, but it’s been four weeks and I’ve not seen any recent updates. And yet if a poll was taken right now, I would guess that for most people who know about Sicknick’s death, the majority of them may think that it is a known and proven fact that right-wing Capitol “insurrectionists” killed Sicknick by beating him with a fire extinguisher.
Here’s some typical coverage that attempts to link those dots. It’s from Yahoo:
Sicknick died last Thursday at the hospital, where he was being treated for “injuries sustained while on-duty,” USCP said in a statement. More specifically, this officer was violently struck with a fire extinguisher during the pro-Trump riots at the Capitol on Wednesday.
That first link is to a piece about the Capitol Police report, which says nothing about the fire extinguisher. That second link goes to a Business Insider article that, like so many similar articles, merely states the fire extinguisher story without sourcing it.
In addition, the earliest reports in the MSM actually said that Sicknick had a stroke. For example, here’s a January 12 article on the subject:
The original source of the fire extinguisher story appears to have been two unnamed officers speaking to the NY Times (headline: “He Dreamed of Being a Police Officer, Then Was Killed by a Pro-Trump Mob”). That story, however, was contradicted by Officer Sicknick’s family, according to this article:
Moreover, the website ProPublica offered a different explanation.
It quoted Ken Sicknick, whom the site identified as the late officer’s brother, as saying that Brian Sicknick had communicated with his family and never mentioned a fire extinguisher attack.
“He texted me last night and said, ‘I got pepper-sprayed twice,’ and he was in good shape,” said Ken Sicknick. “Apparently he collapsed in the Capitol and they resuscitated him using CPR.”
The site said that on Thursday, family members were told that the officer had a blood clot and suffered a stroke and was on a ventilator…
According to what ABC called “sources familiar with the matter,” authorities believe Brian Sicknick’s death was driven by a medical condition.
So ABC had also reported the story that a medical condition was the cause of Officer Sicknick’s death. The ABC report also says this:
They’re also investigating reports that he was attacked with a fire extinguisher or another item at the Capitol, sources said. So far, reports of an attack haven’t been confirmed and authorities are hoping to locate video or other imagery from the scene.
That was written on January 8. To date, I’ve not been able to find further mention that such a confirmation has occurred, or any video or other imagery about it.
Recently this CNN article appeared (February 2) which is headlined, “Investigators struggle to build murder case in death of US Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick.” What is the struggle about, and what is the case for murder so far? Why, it’s about finding no evidence at all that Sicknick sustained any injury at the hands of rioters [emphasis mine]:
Investigators are struggling to build a federal murder case regarding fallen US Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, vexed by a lack of evidence that could prove someone caused his death as he defended the Capitol during last month’s insurrection.
Authorities have reviewed video and photographs that show Sicknick engaging with rioters amid the siege but have yet to identify a moment in which he suffered his fatal injuries, law enforcement officials familiar with the matter said.
Note how cleverly this is written. The reader might be forgiven for thinking that we know for a fact that there were such injuries, we know what they were, and all that’s missing is photographic evidence.
To date, little information has been shared publicly about the circumstances of the death of the 13-year veteran of the police force, including any findings from an autopsy that was conducted by DC’s medical examiner.
One might think that such information would have been released by now, or that MSM reporters should have been clamoring for it. But no.
CNN goes on to add some surprising admissions [emphasis mine]:
In Sicknick’s case, it’s still not known publicly what caused him to collapse the night of the insurrection. Findings from a medical examiner’s review have not yet been released and authorities have not made any announcements about that ongoing process.
According to one law enforcement official, medical examiners did not find signs that the officer sustained any blunt force trauma, so investigators believe that early reports that he was fatally struck by a fire extinguisher are not true.
One possibility being considered by investigators is that Sicknick became ill after interacting with a chemical irritant like pepper spray or bear spray that was deployed in the crowd. But investigators reviewing video of the officer’s time around the Capitol haven’t been able to confirm that in tape that has been recovered so far, the official said.
The case could also be complicated if Sicknick had a preexisting medical condition. It could not be learned if he did.
Those are not the only facts about which authorities have been silent. Byron York has touched on some of the other dogs that haven’t barked concerning January 6 in his Washington Examiner piece from February 4 in which he lists nine questions he has submitted to Capitol Police (complete with follow up calls) that he claims have gone completely unanswered. He points out that these are standard questions with answers that are usually released even at the start of investigations, and so the failure to answer is unusual. Here are York’s unanswered questions:
How many Capitol Police officers were injured in the riot?
What were their injuries? What is their condition now?
Did Capitol Police confiscate any firearms from rioters? If so, how many and what types?
What is the status of the investigation into the killing of Officer Sicknick?
Is there an autopsy report for Officer Sicknick? If so, will it be released to the public, or will its key findings be released to the public?
What is the status of the investigation into the shooting of Ashli Babbitt? Has it been ruled a justifiable shooting?
Who was the officer who shot Ms. Babbitt?
Did any other officers discharge firearms during the rioting? If so, under what circumstances?
Did any rioters discharge any firearms during the rioting? If so, under what circumstances?
I think it’s likely that the present administration, the Democrats, and the press are hoping that the narrative around Officer Sicknick’s death that has already been established in the minds of the vast majority of Americans – that right-wing Trump-supporting rioters killed him by bashing him in the head with a fire extinguisher – will continue to serve its purpose. In order to do this, it would be important to keep any information that might tend to undercut that narrative away from the public.
[Neo is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at the new neo.]DONATE
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