Two charged for pepper-spraying police officer who died after assault on US Capitol

The men are not charged with killing Brian Sicknick as the cause of death remains unclear

FILE - In this Feb. 2, 2021, file photo a placard is displayed with an image of the late U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick on it as people wait for an urn with his cremated remains to be carried into the U.S. Capitol to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington. Federal investigators probing the death Sicknick, a U.S. Capitol Police officer killed in the Jan. 6 riot, have zeroed in on a suspect seen on video appearing to spray a chemical substance on the officer before he later collapsed and died, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP, File)
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The US Justice Department on Monday charged two men with pepper-spraying three Capitol Police officers, one of whom later died, during the January 6 assault on Congress by supporters of former president Donald Trump who were trying to overturn his election defeat.

Julian Elie Khater and George Pierre Tanios are facing multiple charges, including assaulting police with a deadly weapon, after investigators said they sprayed at least three officers with an unidentified but powerful chemical agent.

One of those officers, Brian Sicknick, was later taken to hospital and died the next day.

Mr Khater and Mr Tanios have not been charged with killing Sicknick, whose cause of death remains unclear. A law enforcement source familiar with the matter said it is still too early in the probe to know if the two men bear any direct responsibility for Sicknick's death.

According to the complaint, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said the two men "appeared to time the deployment of chemical substances to coincide with other rioters’ efforts to forcibly remove the bike rack barriers that were preventing the rioters from moving closer to the Capitol building".

Mr Khater, 32, of State College, Pennsylvania, was arrested as he disembarked from an aircraft at Newark Airport in New Jersey. Mr Tanios, 39, of Morgantown, West Virginia, was arrested at his residence. Both are scheduled to make initial appearances in court on Monday.

The bureau located Mr Khater after a tips from a person who worked with him at a food establishment shared his LinkedIn page.

Mr Tanios, meanwhile, operates Sandwich U in Morgantown, West Virginia, and the bureau said it had identified him through witnesses who recognised his photo, including a former business partner who also said he was embroiled in a legal dispute amid allegations of the embezzlement of $435,000 in a prior business venture.

According to a court filing, the government is looking to have Mr Tanios detained.

In video footage, investigators say Mr Khater walked towards Mr Tanios and reached into a backpack Mr Tanios was carrying. Mr Tanios then said: "Hold on, hold on, not yet, not yet … It's still early."

The complaint said the officers were temporarily blinded and disabled by the substance and "needed medical attention and assistance from fellow officers".

Reuters could not immediately determine who will be representing Mr Khater or Mr Tanios.

More than 300 people have already been charged in connection with the riot at the Capitol.

Five people, including Sicknick, died in connection with the attack, and politicians hid on Capitol grounds in fear for their lives.

In court filings last week, the Justice Department revealed it intends to file charges against more than 100 additional accused in what it described as the most complex investigation it has ever handled.