Two men who allegedly assaulted Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick with bear spray as thousands of MAGA rioters breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 have been arrested.
Julian Elie Khater, a 32-year-old resident of Pennsylvania, and George Pierre Tanios, a 39-year-old from West Virginia, were arrested Sunday for their roles in the siege, The Washington Post first reported.
Authorities say the pair is seen in videos discharging a canister of bear spray into the face of Sicknick and two other officers. Sicknick died a day later, after he collapsed in the hours after he defended the building during the siege.
The pair faces a slew of charges for attacking the officers, including assault and civil disorder. The other officers who were hit by the bear spray have been identified as U.S. Capitol Police Officer C. Edwards and a D.C. Police Officer B. Chapman.
“Give me that bear shit,” Khater allegedly said to Tanios in the Lower West Terrace of the Capitol on Jan. 6, before digging into Tanios’ backpack, according to court papers obtained by The Daily Beast. That entrance, prosecutors state, is where Sicknick and at least two other officers were standing guard behind metal bicycle racks.
“Hold on, hold on, not yet, not yet… it’s still early,” Tanios responded.
Approximately nine minutes later, the Pennsylvania resident is caught on video hitting Sicknick and the other officers nearby. Even after the three officers retreated from the line to wash their eyes out, the complaint states Khater continued to raise his arm and “spray in the direction of law-enforcement officers” before he was hit himself with a chemical irritant.
Prosecutors allege Khater and Tanios intentionally timed their attack on the officers with the chemical irritant “to coincide with other rioters’ efforts to forcibly remove the bike rack barriers that were preventing the rioters from moving closer to the Capitol building.”
“This verbal exchange between Khater and Tanios, together with Khater’s retrieval of the spray can from Tanios, reveals that the two were working in concert and had a plan to use the toxic spray against law enforcement,” the complaint states, adding that the pair also seemed to be coordinated via cellphone.
Khater was arrested getting off an airplane at Newark Airport in New Jersey and Tanios was arrested at his home in West Virginia, the Department of Justice said Monday. During separate court appearances on Monday, both Khater and Tanios were ordered to remain in custody until their next hearings.
Sicknick, a 42-year-old Capitol police officer who previously served in the New Jersey Air National Guard, died in the hospital one day after the riots due to injuries sustained “while physically engaging with protesters,” Capitol Police said. While authorities have not officially stated the officer’s cause of death, or whether the incident was a homicide, court papers show Sicknick was clearly attacked by rioters during the riots.
The complaint states Sicknick, Edwards, and Chapman “suffered injuries” after being sprayed by Khater, suffering temporary blindness that barred them from assisting during the insurrection for at least 20 minutes after seeking medical attention.
“They were initially treated with water in an effort to wash out the unknown substance from their eyes and on their face,” the complaint states. “Officer Edwards reported lasting injuries underneath her eyes, including scabbing that remained on her face for weeks. Officers Edwards and Chapman also described the spray to their face as a substance as strong as, if not stronger than, any version of pepper spray they had been exposed to during their training as law enforcement officers. Officer Sicknick reported to his supervisors and colleagues that he had been sprayed in the face with a substance.” The Department of Justice says the contents of the chemical irritant are unknown.
As previously reported by The Daily Beast, the South River, New Jersey, native 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. Sicknick was also reportedly a Trump supporter himself who wanted to be a police officer “his entire life.”
“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.”
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. To date, more than 300 people have been arrested for their role in the riots that forced elected officials into hiding for hours and injured at least 130 police officers.
Prosecutors state that after the riots, they were flooded with tips identifying Khater and Tanios—who grew up together in New Jersey—after being featured in FBI wanted images. One of those witnesses, according to the complaint, said he was a former colleague of Khater at a “food establishment in State College, Pennsylvania.”
According to court records, Khater appeared to own a smoothie bowl restaurant in State College, Frutta Bowls. A business partner, who spoke to The Daily Beast but would not consent to speak publicly, said he was a franchisee who showed himself to be an “awesome guy” and “just a hard worker.”
He appears to have filed for bankruptcy protection for his location of the New Jersey-based chain in 2019. His creditors seem to have included a relative with whom he also developed real estate in the Garden State. He also appears to have co-owned another Frutta Bowls location in North Carolina.
“We really just want to bring a healthier option while promoting healthy, active lifestyles,” Khater told the Centre Daily Times in 2019. “Not just to be in the community but be a part of the community; try to give back.”
According to a 2006 Newsweek article, Khater’s mother, Ellie, lived in Lebanon for several years before returning to the United States amid the discord between Israel and Hizbullah. She appears in several of her son’s financial records, including for lending him money for his Frutta Bowls franchise.
Tanios, for his part, did not seem so concerned with the public image of his eatery, Sandwich University in Morgantown, West Virginia. The shop gained notoriety for using its social media to attack a former employee, and its GrubHub page shows it publicly insulting those who left negative reviews and its own staff.
The store’s Instagram offers insight into its misogynistic marketing taglines, and the now-suspended Twitter account included a number of pro-Trump and anti-mask tweets. Tanios also appears to have owned a nearby sports bar, and public records show a history of substantial state and federal tax problems.
The complaint states that one tipster who spoke with federal authorities said Tanios “bragged about going to the insurrection at the Capitol on Facebook” and that he owned the “Fat Sandwich” restaurant. Another tipster, identified as a former business partner, told authorities he was in a legal dispute with Tanios after the 39-year-old allegedly “embezzled $425,000 from their former business.”
“He had a very shady reputation here in town... he was using money from his business to pay for his own personal finances,” Raymond H. Yackel, an attorney in Morgantown, West Virginia, who represented Tanios’ former business partner, told The Daily Beast on Monday.