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U.S. Arrests 2 Men, Saying They Sprayed Sicknick And Others With Chemical At Capitol

The U.S. flag and the U.S. Capitol Police flag were flown at half-staff after the death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. On Sunday, the FBI arrested two men who are accused of spraying chemicals on Sicknick and others during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Chip Somodevilla
Getty Images
The U.S. flag and the U.S. Capitol Police flag were flown at half-staff after the death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. On Sunday, the FBI arrested two men who are accused of spraying chemicals on Sicknick and others during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Two men have been arrested for allegedly spraying a chemical on Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick and two other law enforcement officers during the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol. Sicknick died one day later; officials have recently said they're still determining what factors might have led to his death.

The two men are Julian Elie Khater, 32, of State College, Pa., and George Pierre Tanios, 39, of Morgantown, W.Va. They were arrested Sunday and charged with "conspiring to injure officers and assaulting federal officers" and other crimes, the Justice Department says.

Tanios was arrested at his home; Khater was arrested as he was getting off an airplane at New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport. The two were slated to have their initial court appearances early Monday afternoon in the states where they were arrested, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington.

Sicknick died one day after he sustained injuries during the attack by a mob of Donald Trump supporters who were attempting to block Congress from certifying President Biden's victory over the former president.

Shortly after the Capitol Police officer died, the Justice Department opened a federal murder investigation into Sicknick's death.

News of the pair of arrests comes two weeks after the FBI singled out a person who was seen spraying a substance on Sicknick and other law enforcement officers. At the time, the Capitol Police emphasized that the medical examiner's report into Sicknick's death was not yet complete, adding that it was still awaiting toxicology results.

During a standoff with police at the Capitol, Khater asked Tanios to "give me that bear s***," according to the Justice Department, citing video footage from the scene.

After pulling a canister from Tanios' backpack, Khater moved to the front of the crowd, next to the police perimeter. He then raised his hand, aimed the canister at Sicknick and two other officers who were standing just a few feet away and waved his arm from side to side, the agency says.

The three officers — Sicknick, C. Edwards from the Capitol Police and D. Chapman from Washington's Metropolitan Police Department — were immediately forced to retreat, "bringing their hands to their faces and rushing to find water to wash out their eyes," the Justice Department said. The department did not provide the officers' first names.

The chemical that hit Sicknick, Edwards and Chapman temporary blinded them and took them out of commission as a mob of people tried to push past a bike rack that was being used as a barricade at the Capitol's lower west terrace, the affidavit states.

"Officer Edwards reported lasting injuries underneath her eyes, including scabbing that remained on her face for weeks," according to the court document.

Despite Khater referring to the spray as "bear s***" — implying that it was a pepper-based bear spray — the affidavit does not identify the material, referring to the canister's contents as an "unknown chemical substance." Federal officials and lawmakers have accused some rioters of using bear spray during the short-lived insurrection.

The FBI affidavit says Khater and Tanios were working together "and had a plan to use the toxic spray against law enforcement."

Investigators say they were alerted to Khater and Tanios by tips from the public, including one person who said they "knew each other and grew up together in New Jersey," according to a criminal complaint and affidavit in the case.

At the Capitol, Tanios was seen wearing a hoodie bearing the logo of the Sandwich University restaurant in Morgantown, known for its "Fat Sandwich." A witness told the FBI that Tanios owns the "Fat Sandwich" restaurant, and social media accounts show that "George Pierre Tanios" is affiliated with the name "kingofthefatsandwich."

Khater was located after a tip pointed investigators to his LinkedIn page, which they then used to contact a witness who identified him. The witness said they had worked with Khater at a "food establishment" in State College.

Both Khater and Tanios each face "one count of conspiracy to injure an officer; three counts of assault on a federal officer with a dangerous weapon; one count of civil disorder; one count of obstructing or impeding an official proceeding; one count of physical violence on restricted grounds, while carrying dangerous weapon and resulting in significant bodily injury; and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct, act of physical violence on Capitol grounds," the Justice Department says.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.