U.S. officials have arrested and charged two men with assaulting U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick with bear spray during the Jan. 6 riot, but they do not know yet whether it caused the officer’s death.

By MICHAEL BALSAMO and ALANNA DURKIN RICHER

George Tanios, 39, of Morgantown, West Virginia, and Julian Khater, 32, of Pennsylvania, were arrested Sunday on an array of charges, including assaulting a federal officer with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy and other offenses.

The arrests are the closest federal prosecutors have come to identifying and charging anyone associated with the deaths that happened during and after the riot. 

FILE – This April 2017, file photo photo shows George Tanios at his sandwich shop in Morgantown, W.Va. U.S. officials have arrested and charged Tanios and a Pennsylvania man with assaulting U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick with bear spray during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot in Washington. (Andrew Spellman, The Daily Athenaeum via AP)

The idea that Sicknick died after being sprayed by a chemical irritant has emerged in recent weeks as a new theory in the case.

Five people died, including a woman who was shot by a police officer inside the Capitol.

But many rioters are facing charges of injuring police officers, who were attacked with bats, sprayed with irritants, punched and kicked, and rammed with metal gates meant to keep the insurrectionists from the Capitol.

Investigators initially believed that Sicknick was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher, based on statements collected early in the investigation, according to two people familiar with the case.

But as they’ve collected more evidence, the theory of the case has evolved and investigators now believe Sicknick may have ingested a chemical substance — possibly bear spray — that may have contributed to his death, officials have said.

FILE – In this Feb. 2, 2021, file photo a placard is displayed with an image of the late U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick on it as people wait for an urn with his cremated remains to be carried into the U.S. Capitol to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington. Federal investigators probing the death Sicknick, a U.S. Capitol Police officer killed in the Jan. 6 riot, have zeroed in on a suspect seen on video appearing to spray a chemical substance on the officer before he later collapsed and died, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP, File)

The medical examiner’s report on Sicknick’s death is incomplete. Capitol Police say they were awaiting toxicology results.

The FBI has already released about 250 photos of people being sought for assaulting federal law enforcement officers during the riot.

Some have already been arrested, and the Justice Department said about 300 people have been charged with federal offenses related to the riot.

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