Two riot suspects accused of dousing police with chemical spray, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, were “lying in wait” before launching an attack that helped break law enforcement’s defensive line, accelerating the deadly breach of the Capitol, prosecutors argued in a Tuesday detention hearing.
Prosecutors claimed that the alleged assault involving Julian Khater, 32, and George Tanios, 37, temporarily blinded and staggered Sicknick, along with two other officers.
Sicknick died the following day of unrelated causes.
More:US Capitol Officer Brian Sicknick died of strokes the day after riot, medical examiner rules
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gilead Light characterized the suspects’ actions as “pre-meditated violence at point-blank” range.
“There was no more severe conduct during this riot,” Light argued, referring to the alleged attack and other police assaults that left 140 officers injured.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan did not immediately rule on suspects’ requests for pre-trial release, setting another round of arguments for May 6.
Tanios and Khater face decades in prison if convicted on 10 criminal counts, including conspiracy to attack officers. Neither suspect is charged with Sicknick’s death.
More:‘Radicalized by hate’: Suspect in officer Sicknick assault jailed pending trial, new Capitol riot videos show chemical spray
Last week, D.C. medical examiner Francisco Diaz attributed Sicknick’s death to natural causes, having suffered strokes. Diaz found that Sicknick, 42, died of “acute brainstem and cerebellar infarcts due to acute basilar artery thrombosis.”
Diaz released a timeline saying Sicknick was sprayed about 2:20 p.m. on Jan. 6, collapsed about 10 p.m. and then died at a hospital about 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 7.
Of the 140 officers injured during the riot, some suffered head and back injuries, gouged eyes and severed fingers. Video and photographs of the siege have shown officers beaten, trampled and others crushed in doorways.
Khater’s attorney, Joseph Tacopina, argued that his client used pepper spray only after being doused with chemical irritants used by police, suggesting that Khater acted out of “panic.”
“Mr. Khater was not part of the Proud Boys or other extremist groups who prepared months in advance,” Tacopina said, citing the alleged involvement of multiple groups whose members have been accused of conspiring to attack the Capitol.
“He (Khater) was a guy,” the attorney said.
While prosecutors have claimed that Tanios purchased highly toxic bear repellent and pepper spray the day before the two traveled to Washington, Light said only the pepper spray cannister was deployed during the riot.
Still, the prosecutor questioned the suspects’ need for any of the equipment if their aim was to participate in a peaceful demonstration.
“Why are they buying bear spray to go to D.C.?” Light argued. “There are no bears in D.C.”
As part of the release request, Tacopina proposed an enormous $15 million bond package, secured by five properties owned by Khater’s family members.
Contributing: Bart Jansen