Family of Capitol officer who died after Jan 6 attack refuse to shake hands with GOP leaders during medal ceremony

The family of a US Capitol Police officer who received a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor for his service during a violent riot inside the halls of Congress refused to shake hands with Republican leadership who presented the family with the award during a formal ceremony.

US Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died after suffering multiple strokes hours after sparring with a mob that broke into the Capitol on 6 January, 2021. A medical examiner determined that he died of natural causes.

His family members were among several recipients of the honour, which broadly recognised law enforcement officers who protected the Capitol, its staff and elected officials after a crowd fuelled by Donald Trump’s baseless accusations that the 2020 presidential election was marred by fraud and “stolen” from him.

On 6 December, members of Sicknick’s family joined a ceremony to receive the medal from congressional leadership.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was first to greet recipients in a line, followed by GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. After shaking hands with Mr Schumer, the family refused to shake hands with the Republican leaders.

“They’re just two faced,” Sicknick’s mother Gladys Sicknick told CNN after the event. “I’m just tired of them standing there and saying how wonderful the Capitol police is, and then they turn around and … go down to Mar-a-Lago and kiss his ring ... It just hurts.”

Only 10 House Republicans joined House Democrats in a vote to impeach then-President Trump for inciting the riot with his ongoing false narrative that the election was stolen from him. Weeks after the attack, Mr McCarthy visited Mr Trump at his Florida estate. His political action committee announced at the time that “President Trump has agreed to work with Leader McCarthy on helping the Republican party to become a majority in the house.”

“They came out right away and condemned what happened on January 6,” Mr Sicknick’s brother Ken told CBS News. “Whatever hold that Trump has on them, they’ve backstepped, they’ve danced, they won’t admit to wrongdoing. Not necessarily them, themselves, but of Trump and the rioters.”

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He mentioned Texas Republican Louis Gohmert, who presented a convicted rioter with a flag flown over the Capitol after her release from prison.

“It’s disgusting,” Ken Sicknick said. “It takes away everything my brother has done. … With them, it’s party first. … As long as it’s got a big ‘R’ in front of it, we’re gonna do whatever [they] think.”

Twenty-one House Republicans voted against awarding law enforcement the Congressional Medal of Honor, and far-right members of Congress and Republican officials across the US have sought to downplay or celebrate the violence in the halls of Congress that day.

Mr McCarthy also has indicated that his incoming Republican majority will not only end the House select committe’s inquiry into the events leading up and surrounding the attack but likely attempt to discredit its bombshell revelations.

Roughly 900 people have been charged by federal prosecutors in connection with the attack.

Among them, approximately 278 defendants have been charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers or employees, including approximately 95 people charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer.

Law enforcement agencies estimate that 140 police officers were assaulted during the attack, including about 80 members of the Capitol Police and 60 from Washington DC’s Metropolitan Police Department.

Sicknick was among three officers who died in the aftermath.

Capitol Police officer Howard Liebengood and DC officer Jeffrey Smith both killed themselves days after the attack after facing off against rioters.

Two men were charged with assaulting Sicknick with an unknown chemical spray during the attack. Both have pleaded guilty.

Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger accepted the award on behalf of the agency’s officers “who bravely sacrificed their own safety in order to protect the Capitol Building, the members of Congress and our country’s legislative process,” he said in remarks on Tuesday.

“It was a day unlike any other in our nation’s history. And for us, it was a day defined by chaos, courage, tragic loss and resolve,” he said. “I especially want to remember our officers who made the ultimate sacrifice – Officer Brian Sicknick and Officer Howard Liebengood.”

He also recognised Officer Billy Evans, who was killed during an attack outside the Capitol on 2 April 2021.