WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — It’s been almost a month since the attempted insurrection at the Capitol, but the consequences were made painfully clear on Wednesday as one of the police officers who defended the seat of American democracy against the mob was memorialized as a hero.
Late Tuesday, the remains of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick were carried to the rotunda to lie in honor – a rare occasion in a place where mostly fallen presidents and high-ranking dignitaries have been venerated.
The president came to pay his respects on Tuesday and the vice president followed on Wednesday. Then, the leaders of the Congress the officer once protected had their say.
“That Brian and his family were made to pay such a high price for his devoted service in the Capitol was a senseless tragedy, one that we are still grappling with. It has left deep scars here in this building among his friends and his colleagues,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Officer Sicknick was a National Guard veteran from New Jersey who served tours in the Middle East and whose dream was to become a police officer. He had been on the Capitol Hill force for 12 years when — on Jan. 6 — a mob attacked the building where he worked.
“Each day when members enter the Capitol, this temple of democracy, we will remember his sacrifice and the others that day who fought so hard to protect the Capitol and the Congress,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said.
It remains unclear how the officer died.
There’s been no official report from the medical examiner, though early accounts said he may have been hit in the head by a fire extinguisher, like the one allegedly tossed at the police by retired firefighter Robert Sanford, who’s now under arrest.
The FBI reportedly questioned dozens of people in connection with Sicknick’s death one day after he engaged with protesters. His father told Reuters that Officer Sicknick was pepper-sprayed and injured during the riot. Local police are investigating the fatality as a homicide.
Who incited the mob is the subject of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial due to start next week. House Democratic managers said the former president is to blame, citing his baseless claims that the election he lost was stolen from him and his exhortation to his supporters on the day of the riot to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell.”
“Precisely the kind of constitutional offense…” the Democrats argue… “that warrants disqualification from federal office.”
But defense lawyers say the trial is unconstitutional since Trump is no longer president and is thus outside the reach of Congress. Acquittal seems likely since 45 Republican Senators last week supported a measure that agreed with that defense position.
The question of who bears responsibility for what no longer matters to Brian Sicknick, nor do the deep divisions in the nation that honored him. The officer’s remains left the Capitol Wednesday afternoon bound for burial later at Arlington National Cemetery.
Officer Sicknick was 42 years old. He is one of only five private citizens in the history of this country who have lain in honor at the U.S. Capitol.