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Fact Checking Joe Biden’s Comment on the Death of Brian Sicknick
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Fact Checking Joe Biden’s Comment on the Death of Brian Sicknick

He claimed that January 6 rioters killed a police officer. Brian Sicknick died on January 7 of two strokes after defending the Capitol.

During a press conference after his meeting with Vladmir Putin on Wednesday, President Joe Biden was asked about Putin justifying crackdowns on political opposition by saying he didn’t want something like the January 6 attack on the Capitol to happen in Russia. Biden responded: “It’s one thing for literally criminals to break through cordon, go into the Capitol, kill a police officer and be held unaccountable, than it is for people objecting, marching on a Capitol and saying you are not allowing me to speak freely, you’re not allowing me to do A, B, C, or D. And so they’re very different criteria.”

Biden is referring to Officer Brian Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who died on January 7 after having defended the Capitol the day before. After initial claims from Capitol Police that Sicknick had died of injuries sustained at the Capitol attack, the medical examiner’s report indicated that Sicknick’s cause of death was two strokes. Sicknick had been sprayed with a chemical agent during the attack, but in an interview with the Washington Post, the medical examiner, Francisco J. Diaz, said there was no evidence Sicknick experienced internal or external injuries, nor that the chemicals had caused an allergic reaction. From the Post: “Diaz said Sicknick suffered two strokes at the base of the brain stem caused by a clot in an artery that supplies blood to that area of the body. Diaz said he could not comment on whether Sicknick had a preexisting medical condition, citing privacy laws.”

Diaz did say, however, that the events of January 6 “played a role in [Sicknick’s] condition.” Experts told CNN that stress from a traumatic experience can certainly bring about a stroke, leaving open the possibility that Sicknick’s role in defending the Capitol and being attacked by rioters may have led to his strokes.

Without further context, Biden’s comment that rioters “kill[ed] a police officer” might lead listeners to believe Sicknick was murdered on January 6. Such an interpretation would be inaccurate: Sicknick died after suffering two strokes, and while those strokes may have been brought on by the events of January 6, there is no way to definitively prove a connection.

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Alec Dent is a former culture editor and staff writer for The Dispatch.