Trump Sued for Wrongful Death of Officer at Jan. 6 Capitol Riot
WASHINGTON — The estate of a police officer who died a day after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol is suing former President Donald Trump and two rioters.
The lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Washington, D.C., says Trump’s “campaign of lies and incendiary rhetoric” incited the mob violence that contributed to Officer Brian Sicknick’s death.
“That attack on the United States Capitol cost U.S. Capitol Officer Brian Sicknick, who was bravely defending the cradle of American Democracy, his life,” the lawsuit says.
Sicknick was in a police line defending the Capitol’s Lower West Terrace when rioters tried to push their way into the building. Two of the rioters named in the lawsuit, Julian Khater and George Tanios, hit and kicked Sicknick and other officers, the lawsuit says.
In addition, Khater sprayed Sicknick in the face with bear spray he got from Tanios, the lawsuit says.
Sicknick died on Jan. 7 after suffering two strokes, according to a report from the District of Columbia’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The examiner, Francisco Diaz, said in later press reports that the assault Sicknick, 42, endured “played a role in his condition.”
His body lay in state under the Capitol Rotunda before his funeral.
The lawsuit filed against Trump, Khater and Tanios alleges wrongful death. It seeks more than $10 million in damages.
Khater and Tanios were arrested in March 2021. Tanios pleaded guilty to entering a restricted building and disorderly conduct. Khater pleaded guilty to two counts of assaulting or resisting an officer with a dangerous weapon.
Both are scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 27.
Sandra Garza, Sicknick’s partner and administrator of his estate, said in her lawsuit that Trump should not be allowed to escape liability for orchestrating a violent attempt to stop Congress from certifying a presidential election victory in favor of his opponent, Joe Biden.
“Out of options and out of time, defendant Trump finally called his supporters to Washington, D.C., on the day Congress met to certify President-elect Biden’s win, telling them to ‘Stop the Steal’ and that the day ‘will be wild,’” the lawsuit says.
“Defendant Trump implored the crowd to ‘fight like hell’ and ‘walk down Pennsylvania Avenue … to the Capitol,’” according to the lawsuit.
It adds, “Many participants in the attack have since revealed that they were acting on what they believed to be defendant Trump’s direct orders in service of their country.”
Trump’s potential civil and criminal liability continues to be a subject of uncertainty in Congress and the Justice Department.
Presidents normally are protected from liability by the “executive privilege” the Constitution grants them to prevent legal barriers that might interfere with carrying out their duties.
Garza, along with members of the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol, say Trump was acting outside the scope of his authority as president when he made a speech on the White House Ellipse the morning of Jan. 6, 2021.
Trump also told the thousands of his supporters who gathered on the Ellipse, “And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Last month, the House Jan. 6 committee referred criminal charges against Trump to the Justice Department. The referrals recommended charges of obstruction of an official proceeding; conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to make a false statement and “incite,” “assist” or “aid and comfort” an insurrection.
Justice Department officials have not yet indicated whether they will follow through by prosecuting Trump.
The lawsuit filed Thursday adds to other legal claims against Trump brought by Democratic lawmakers and law enforcement officers who were assaulted during the insurrection.
A U.S. District Court judge has ruled Trump could be personally liable for his actions but the ruling is pending on appeal before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington.
The Jan. 6 riot is blamed for five deaths and injuries to 140 law enforcement officers.
The case is Sandra Garza v. Donald J. Trump et al. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Tom can be reached on Twitter at @tramstack.