Brian Sicknick wanted to be a police officer “his entire life.”
The South River, New Jersey, native joined the New Jersey Air National Guard as a means to that end. He served in post-9/11 Operations Enduring Freedom and Desert Shield, and worked for the 108th Air Refueling Wing at New Jersey’s Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
But, at just 42 years old, he was killed defending the country’s beacon of democracy when a pro-Trump mob tried to overtake the Capitol building on Wednesday.
“Brian is a hero and that is what we would like people to remember,” his older brother, Ken Sicknick, said in a statement to The Daily Beast, adding that the “direct causes” of his brother’s injuries were unknown and the family didn’t want his death to be made “a political issue.”
Sicknick, the youngest of three brothers, died in the hospital on Thursday night from injuries sustained “while physically engaging with protesters,” Capitol Police said. Citing law-enforcement sources, The New York Times said he was struck with a fire extinguisher during the rampage.
“He returned to his division office and collapsed,” a Capitol Police statement said. The death is being investigated by the Metropolitan P.D.’s Homicide Branch, Capitol Police, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, which opened a federal murder probe.
In a cruel twist, Sicknick was a Trump supporter himself, according to a former Nancy Pelosi staffer, who told The Washington Post that she bonded with the officer despite their opposing views. She saw Sicknick every day and, after Trump won in 2016, she cried on his shoulder and he didn’t say a word out of respect, the aide said.
Michael Ricci, a Republican staffer to former House speakers Paul Ryan and John Boehner, said Sicknick, one of six officers he saw everyday at the Capitol, was a “bit of a ball buster” with a sharp sense of humor.
“He was a good officer, but also very personable,” Ricci, who now serves as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s spokesman, told the Post. “He was just what you’d want at that door with so many people coming through.”
Craig Sicknick told The Daily Beast on Thursday night, as family members rushed to the hospital, that his brother was on a ventilator with a blood clot in his brain and that “it did not look good.”
He said his brother graduated as a Capitol cop two days before President Obama’s inauguration and “always tried to do what was right.”
“He worked a lot of overtime, and he was on during this mess,” he said.
Londi Guerra, who lived a few doors down from Sicknick in a suburban neighborhood in Springfield, Virginia, said he would always take time to “stop and ask you how you were doing” when out walking.
“He was a very nice guy. A very kind soul from what I could tell,” she told The Daily Beast, adding that he was known in the area for being friendly and for loving his two dogs. “He’d walk them around this strip every day.”
Every neighbor who knew Sicknick, even in passing, told The Daily Beast of his warmth. Many were shocked that the wild events of Wednesday reached their quiet street.
Brian, who declined to share his last name, said he was a fan of law enforcement and President Trump but felt the riot was “extreme.”
“That’s like trying to start a civil war,” he said. “I don’t think that was a good thing.”
Guerra said she worried for her neighbor as she watched the violence unfold on TV. “I was just saying ‘I hope he’s OK,’” she said. “You can protest all you want peacefully. There are many ways to do it... The police were clearly overwhelmed.”
The Army Times reported that during his service, Sicknick was deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1999 to support Operation Southern Watch, a mission to monitor and control the airspace in southern and south-central Iraq. Four years later, he was deployed to Kyrgyzstan for Operation Enduring Freedom.
“Staff Sgt. Sicknick’s commitment to service and to protect his community, state, and nation will never be forgotten,” the New Jersey National Guard said in a statement to The Daily Beast.
Despite serving his country, however, he wrote letters criticizing the Iraq War and the second Bush administration. In a 2003 letter published by a local newspaper, he said that “with an unnecessary war taking place and other major problems going on in this country, there is no room for blatantly partisan politics,” according to local reports.
“This is just another poor example of the Bush administration that has its hands grasped firmly on the puppet strings of conservative senators,” Sicknick wrote.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday ordered the flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff in Sicknick’s honor.
Four others died in the riot: A woman shot by police while trying to break into the House chamber, a 55-year-old Alabama man who had a heart attack, a Georgia woman who was reportedly crushed in the crowd, and a Philadelphia man who suffered a stroke.
Trump, who pegged his failed 2020 campaign on “law and order,” has not commented on Sicknick’s death. White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement: “Anytime a member of law enforcement dies in the line of duty it’s a solemn reminder that they run toward danger to maintain peace.”
More than 50 Capitol and D.C. police were injured during the riot as Congress met to confirm Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, including several who were hospitalized.
On Thursday, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund resigned after several lawmakers called for him to leave over the extraordinary security failure that saw Trump supporters smash their way into the building, where they looted sensitive material and forced staff to evacuate.
“Our officers did their jobs. Our leadership did not,” Capitol Police Union Chairman Gus Papathanasiou said in a statement. “This lack of planning led to the greatest breach of the U.S. Capitol since the War of 1812. This is a failure of leadership at the very top.”