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On Tuesday, slain U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick became only the fifth person to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda. It was a well-deserved recognition for a man who did his job bravely, standing between a violent mob and the people and building his department is responsible for protecting.
Political leaders from both parties paid their respects to Sicknick, who police said was injured “while physically engaging with protesters” on Jan. 6. He was reportedly hit in the head with a fire extinguisher and pepper-sprayed during the riot, and died the next day. There has yet to be a final determination on the cause of his death.
The politicians had very nice, very fitting things to say about Sicknick’s heroism. But their words, heartfelt and well-presented as they may have been, don’t have the same power as those coming from the people who knew Sicknick best.
“There really aren’t enough kind words in any language to describe how sweet Brian was. He was truly a lovely, humble soul. We are missing him terribly,” his family said in a Jan. 11 statement. “He was sweet natured through and through. Everyone who met him adored him. He also loved his dachshunds dearly, spoiling them, and ensuring they got the best care possible.”
Sicknick, 42, was originally from New Jersey. After graduating from high school in 1997, he enlisted in the National Guard and was deployed to Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan. He became a member of the Capitol Police in 2008.
“He loved his job with the U.S. Capitol Police, and was very passionate about it,” his family also said. “He also had an incredible work ethic.”
Chief Master Sgt. Lance Endee served with Sicknick in the New Jersey Air National Guard.
“He just was a good person and wanted the best for everyone around him,” Endee told a Philadelphia TV station. “He really optimized the Air Force core value of service before self.”
Endee and Sicknick also served together overseas.
“Brian just always had a great outlook on everything even though we were putting in long days and fatigued and hungry,” Endee said. “And Brian just always tried to lift everyone’s spirits with a little wisecrack or something like that.”
Sicknick’s family asked for privacy and for “the public and the press to respect our wishes in not making Brian’s passing a political issue” in an earlier statement,
“Please honor Brian’s life and service and respect our privacy while we move forward in doing the same,” they asked. “Brian is a hero and that is what we would like people to remember.”
That reasonable request not to politicize their loved one’s death has importantly not prevented members of Sicknick’s family from trying to understand why he died.
“He spent his life trying to help other people,” one of his brothers told ProPublica. “This political climate got my brother killed.”
We hope it’s not considered political to acknowledge and reflect on the disconcerting fact that one of the officers says he was beaten by a “thin blue line” flag on Jan. 6. It doesn’t have to be political to try to understand how such violent lawlessness could be carried out by people claiming to support the Constitution and the former president who often spoke of “law and order.” It doesn’t have to be political to recognize that, following the traumatic events at the Capitol, two police officers who responded that day took their own lives. That reminds us of the ongoing consequences of the Jan. 6 attack and the need for ongoing support for law enforcement and others who were traumatized that day.
As we’ve emphasized before, this country doesn’t heal by downplaying these events or ignoring why they happened. That is true for the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and it is true for the more than 300 line of duty police officer deaths that have occured in the past year, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.