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credit: utah public radio

Perhaps the greatest difficulty in writing about police matters is I am usually limited by the information publically available: media accounts.  In the case of the protest at the Capital on January 6, 2021, I have no inside information, at least not as I write this.  However, one can often learn a great deal by what is not being said and done.  In other words, any competent investigation takes a predictable path.  Certain things are done, and usually in a specific order.  When those things are not done, or when information that should be released is not, one might be justified in being suspicious.  When the media and authorities are united in lying, well…

Such is the case of Capital Police Officer Brian Sicknick who died some 24 hours after the event ended.  To date, we have been relentlessly told he died as a result of trauma suffered when he was bludgeoned on the head with a fire extinguisher.  That one could die from such a blow is certainly possible, but that is essentially all we’ve been told, which is odd indeed.  When a police officer dies in the line of duty, a great deal more specific information is normally released.  Now we learn we have not been honestly informed:

Off. Brian Sicknick

Investigators are struggling to build a federal murder case regarding fallen US Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, vexed by a lack of evidence that could prove someone caused his death as he defended the Capitol during last month’s insurrection.

Authorities have reviewed video and photographs that show Sicknick engaging with rioters amid the siege but have yet to identify a moment in which he suffered his fatal injuries, law enforcement officials familiar with the matter said.

Keep in mind two Capital police officers—Howard Leibengood and Jeffrey Smithhave committed suicide, which deaths “authorities” and the media have directly suggested were the direct result of their duty at the Capital on January 6:

A second officer, Jeffrey Smith, was another of those who ‘took their own lives in the aftermath of that battle,’ [DC Police Chief Robert] Contee revealed Wednesday before a congressional panel tasked with investigating the failures that led to the deadly event.

More on this aspect shortly, but let’s return to the CNN article:

To date, little information has been shared publicly about the circumstances of the death of the 13-year veteran of the police force, including any findings from an autopsy that was conducted by DC’s medical examiner.

In a statement the day after the insurrection, Capitol Police said that Sicknick had been “injured while physically engaging with protesters” and collapsed as a result of his injuries sometime after returning to his office. He died the next day in a local hospital. [skip]

In Sicknick’s case, it’s still not known publicly what caused him to collapse the night of the insurrection. Findings from a medical examiner’s review have not yet been released and authorities have not made any announcements about that ongoing process.

The only reason to delay the release of that kind of information is if would in some material way impede or interfere with the investigation into Sicknick’s death.  This does not appear to be the case:

According to one law enforcement official, medical examiners did not find signs that the officer sustained any blunt force trauma, so investigators believe that early reports that he was fatally struck by a fire extinguisher are not true.

One possibility being considered by investigators is that Sicknick became ill after interacting with a chemical irritant like pepper spray or bear spray that was deployed in the crowd. But investigators reviewing video of the officer’s time around the Capitol haven’t been able to confirm that in tape that has been recovered so far, the official said.

The case could also be complicated if Sicknick had a preexisting medical condition. It could not be learned if he did.

A spokeswoman for the US Capitol Police declined to comment for this story citing the ongoing investigation.

Let me be clear: if Sicknick’s death was the result of any criminal act, those responsible must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  Their political leanings or reasons for being at the Capital must have no bearing on a decision to arrest or prosecute.  However, probable cause for arrest must be present—as it must in any criminal case—and no prosecution should be mounted unless prosecutors are reasonably sure they have proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  Legal, not political, standards must prevail.

The critical issue here, about which we know little or nothing, is exactly what caused Officer Sicknick’s death.  It now appears blunt force trauma was not involved, nor was a fire extinguisher, though there is at least one video that has received quite a bit of airplay showing someone throwing what appears to be a fire extinguisher at a group of police officers.  The extinguisher appears to have glanced off the helmet of an officer, who did not appear to be immediately injured, nor have any of those officers, or whoever threw what appears to be an extinguisher, been positively identified.  No one is apparently claiming the helmet-wearing officer involved was Sicknick.

If Officer Sicknick, for example, suffered a stroke not caused by a blow, it would be virtually impossible to prosecute anyone for his death.  Police work is inherently stressful, and it’s not possible to prosecute people with who a police officer non-violently interacts for their death by medical causes.  The mere presence of a crowd near such an officer would not normally constitute criminal liability.

Again, we know so little about this case, but we now know there is reason to be suspicious about the conduct of the investigation and those conducting it.  Is this investigation being driven by D/S/C politics, by a need to demonize Normal Americans in the service of justifying the destruction of civil liberties? Are investigators merely being overly cautious, or are they being entirely professional and conducting a meticulous investigation?  We have no way of knowing at the moment.

The deaths of the two additional officers are, to say the least, concerning.  Police officers do, upon occasion, commit suicide, but usually not without extraordinary stresses built up over time, and/or as a result of the imminent revelation of dishonor/criminal acts.  We know nothing of these officers, nothing about the means of their deaths.  We know only they—and Off. Sicknick–are being portrayed as martyrs by people who can reasonably be described as hating the police in general.

Is there anything nefarious about their deaths?  Were they killed as part of a cover up, and if so, a cover up of what?  Did they believe they were about to be used as scapegoats?  Are their entirely coincidental deaths being used for political advantage?  Again, we have no way to know at the moment, and likely will never know.

Ashlee Babbitt

And what of the officer—if that’s what he was—who shot and killed Air Force veteran Ashlee Babbitt?  It now appears whoever it was will not be charged in her death:

Investigators have determined a Capitol police officer who shot and killed Ashlee Babbitt during the US Capitol riot should not be charged with any crime, a law enforcement source told NBC News.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that police investigators recommended not charging the officer, although the US Attorney’s Office would make a final decision on the case.

The 35-year-old Air Force veteran and ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump was shot during the January 6 storm of the US Capitol. [Skip]

The video shows the rioters, who made it to the glass-breaking building on the doors near the House Chamber, which was locked with chairs from inside, in an attempt to prevent the crowd from entering. As Bubbitt tried to climb through the shattered glass, he was badly shot by a Capitol police officer.

The Justice Department announced last month that the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia would investigate the shooting, and officers – who have not been identified by the Capitol Police or investigators – were placed on leave.

Babbitt was a decorated security force controller in the Air Force and has been on several Middle East tours from 2004 to 2016.

What we know is Babbitt was unarmed, and was shot, apparently in the neck, as she tried to enter a window.  Various media accounts suggest other officers were behind and/or very near her at the time, but taking no action, which would suggest they did not perceive her to be a threat to anyone or anything.  Video that has been released shows only an extended arm holding a handgun, which fired a single shot from a distance, which also suggests the person that fired the shot was in no danger.  There is also no known evidence to suggest Babbit was about to breach any place so secret or sensitive deadly force would be justified; numerous other “protestors” were around her and throughout the building at that point.

It has also been observed that the shooter was in plainclothes—apparently a suit—and was wearing cufflinks, which might—might—indicate he was not a Capital police officer, but perhaps a member of some other law enforcement agency, or even a member of a personal protective detail for some member of Congress or another branch of government, though such people have not been placed—to our knowledge–at the scene of the shooting.

If all of this is accurate, it is hard to imagine the shooter had lawful justification to shoot.  If he did not, he should be charged.  Also odd is he has not been identified.  We are not, at this point, certain no charges will be filed, but again, there is reason for concern.  In this case, which may not be the case with the deaths of the three other officers, a lawsuit for wrongful death is likely.  If so, much may be revealed by discovery.

For the moment, virtually everything about four deaths remains unknown.  Let us hope the investigations are not soiled by politics, and are handled by dedicated professionals.  The results of police investigations are public property.  Once the investigations are complete, the people do indeed have a right to know.

UPDATE, 02-05-21, 0005 MT: Go here for a brief article from Byron York raising many of the questions I raised.  York observes that a great many things routinely revealed to the public very quickly after such events is being withheld.  Are those in charge at the Capital our servants or masters?