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National Review

The Times corrects the record of the death of Officer Sicknick, more or less

A few days ago, the New York Times quietly “updated” its report, published more than a month earlier, stating that Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick had been killed by being hit by a fire extinguisher during the 6 riot of January. According to the update, “new information has emerged on the death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who questions the initial cause of his death provided by officers close to the Capitol Police.” As I detailed in a column last week, what the Times calls “new information” actually started to emerge on the same day that the newspaper presented its January 8 report. That report was (and still is) entitled “Capitol Police Officer dies due to injuries in Pro-Trump Rampage”. It was not the only Times report that day. There was another, entitled “He dreamed of being a police officer, then he was killed by a pro-Trump mob”, in which the Times said: On Wednesday, pro-Trump supporters attacked that citadel of democracy [i.e., the Capitol], dominated Sicknick, 42, and hit him over the head with a fire extinguisher, according to two police officers. With a bloody cut on the head, Mr. Sicknick was rushed to the hospital and placed on life support devices. He died on Thursday night. However, as early as the morning of January 8, KHOU in Houston reported that Sicknick had died of a stroke. The KHOU story does not mention the policeman being hit by a fire extinguisher. He said, however, that the spill occurred “on the Capitol during riots”, and a caption under the officer ‘s photograph stated that he died “of injuries sustained during the Capitol riot.” The headline of the KHOU story attributes the conclusion that a stroke was the cause of death to the head of the Capitol Police union, Gus Papathanasiou. The body of the story identified Papathanasiou as its source for what turned out to be the erroneous report that Sicknick had passed away on Thursday (the day after the riot); in fact, he was still on the life support device at the time and was pronounced dead on Thursday night. My aforementioned column mentioned that Tucker Carlson of Fox News (with a report from the Revolver News website) had just reported that Sicknick was not taken to the hospital directly from Capitol Hill. On the contrary, not only had the police returned to the police headquarters; he had sent a text message to his brother hours after the siege, stating that, although he had been “peppered twice,” he was “in good shape”. In addition, Carlson pointed to a CNN report on February 2 that, according to unidentified police officers, coroners found no evidence of blunt trauma to Sicknick’s body and concluded that the fire extinguisher account did not it was true. To be clear, my goal in focusing on this story was not to report, let alone claim credit for the Times’ implicit acknowledgment that their original stories were wrong. In addition to Tucker Carlson, Revolver News and KHOU, Julie Kelly of American Greatness was also there before me – and emphasized that I was deceived. I focused on the story for two reasons. First, I am one of the analysts who relied uncritically on the initial Times reports, deducing from this the conclusion that Sicknick was “murdered” by the troublemakers – it is not a long logical leap if you credit the claim that a police officer was beaten in head with a lethal object by rioters who were intentionally and violently confronting the security forces. Julie Kelly rebuked me again yesterday for “regurgitating” the “narrative that Sicknick was murdered”, which I certainly did – although she is not, as she describes it, a political analyst at “NeverTrump Right”. As I repeated a very serious claim that had not been supported by reliable evidence from identifiable sources, I found it important to make it clear, to the extent that it is within my power to do so, that there are now immense reasons to doubt the original reporting – while I confess (with a link to the column in which I included the “murder” allegation) who was as guilty as any other analyst or reporter who extended the dubious report. Second, and more significantly, the death of Officer Sicknick became a foundation for the impeachment of ex-President Trump by the House and the allegations made by the impeachment managers of the House of Democrats that were publicly filed in his pre-trial petition on February 2nd. it was already a substantial reason to question the fire extinguisher claim. Prosecutors have an obligation, rooted in due process and professional ethics, to reveal justifying evidence. This includes evidence that is inconsistent with the guilt theory they postulated. Even if Sicknick’s death was causally linked to the disturbances, prosecutors would be required to correct the record if it had not happened in the way they expressly represented it. The House’s impeachment managers did not do this last week, when NR published my column raising this issue, and even today, although the impeachment trial is over, we still don’t know about the circumstances surrounding the policeman’s tragic death at 42 years old. Which brings us back to the original Times report. The “updated” version is, to say the least, confusing. At first, he attributes to unidentified “authorities” the claim that Sicknick “died of injuries sustained ‘while physically engaging’ with pro-Trump protesters.” The Times then describes Sicknick as “only the fourth member of the force to have been killed in the line of duty since its founding two centuries ago.” This statement is published as if it were an established fact, without a source. But was it established that Sicknick was “killed”? Was it established that he died of injuries sustained while physically engaging pro-Trump protesters? As far as I know, it wasn’t. And even the Times implicitly admits it is not sure what it is saying. A few paragraphs later, the same report now states: The circumstances surrounding Mr. Sicknick’s death were not immediately clear, and the Capitol Police said only that he had “died due to injuries sustained while on duty”. This looks really cool. “Sustained during service” is not the same as “sustained ‘while physically engaged’ with pro-Trump protesters.” The Times goes on to acknowledge that “police officers initially said that Sicknick was hit by a fire extinguisher”, but that “weeks later, police sources and investigators discussed whether he was hit” and that “a law enforcement officer” (Unidentified, is course) says that “medical experts said [Sicknick] he did not die of blunt trauma. ”The latest version of Capitol Police events appears to be:“ He returned to his division’s office and collapsed. . . . He was taken to a local hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries ”. What injuries? We are not informed. Although the Times admits that “it is not clear where Mr. Sicknick’s meeting with protesters took place”, the newspaper strangely adds that “photos and videos posted by a local reporter during the night of chaos showed a man spraying a fire extinguisher outside the Senate chamber, with a small number of policemen overlooking the area on a nearby staircase. ”Okay, but so what? The Times does not say that these officers included Sicknick, and the newspaper’s original claim – that it became the formal claim of the administrators of the House’s impeachment – it was that Sicknick had been hit in the head by a fire extinguisher. Given the way the Times has already confused things, to the point of having to provide a not very edifying “update”, why speculate that Are the photos and videos cited relevant to Sicknick’s death? Meanwhile, the word “dash” does not appear in the updated Times article, so the newspaper is discounting the report that Sicknick died of a stroke, although now that statement has been attributed to a nominated person, presumably in a position to know – the head of the Capitol Police union? And what is the basis for the Times’ continuing claim that Sicknick died of injuries sustained while physically engaging pro-Trump protesters? Of course, it is entirely possible – perhaps even likely – that this is true. But without the autopsy report and with indications that Sicknick managed to return to his office after the siege, he later told his brother that he was in good shape despite having received pepper spray and showing no signs of direct trauma, why sustain this statement? After all, the Times updated its story because the story, as originally published, was misleading. And Democratic House managers – after basing their claim solely on the dubious allegation of the Times fire extinguisher – essentially stayed away from the circumstances surrounding Sicknick’s death during his impeachment trial. Regardless of whether the impeachment has started, it is vital that we have an accurate account of what happened on January 6, including an accurate account of what happened to police officer Brian Sicknick. And, since the impeachment has started, we also owe an explanation as to why House administrators did not clarify the circumstances of Sicknick’s death after making an explosive claim about how it happened.