Friday, October 7, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Bond granted to man who chemically sprayed Sicknick and other officers in Capitol riot

The D.C. Circuit granted pretrial release to George Tanios, who has been jailed with Julian Khater since their arrest on assault charges related to the January 6 insurrection. 

WASHINGTON (CN) — A West Virginia man charged with chemically spraying Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died the next day after suffering two strokes, should be let out on bond, the D.C. Circuit ruled late Monday night.

Reversing a May order that had denied bond to George Tanios, a three-judge panel said the trial court "clearly erred in its individualized assessment of appellant’s dangerousness."

“The record reflects that Tanios has no past felony convictions, no ties to any extremist organizations, and no post-January 6 criminal behavior that would otherwise show him to pose a danger to the community within the meaning of the Bail Reform Act," the brief order states.

Authorities charged Tanios, a 39-year-old sandwich shop owner from Morgantown, W.Va., in March alongside Julian Khater, a 32-year-old from State College, Pa., saying the men worked together to spray the face and eyes of three law enforcement officers with a chemical irritant. 

Body-cam and other footage from the riot show that the men walked up through the crowds to where insurrectionists were pulling bike racks used to shield the Capitol building, and then sprayed officer Sicknick in the face from 5 to 8 feet away. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards and Metropolitan Police Officer Damian Chapman were sprayed as well.

In the complaint, a transcript of the footage that shows Khater reaching into Tanios’ backpack quote him as saying, “Give me that bear shit."

“Hold on, hold on, not yet, not yet… it's still early,” replied Tanios, who can be identified in footage from the riot by his beard, dark hooded sweatshirt, black backpack and red hat. 

“They just fucking sprayed me,” said Khater, who is also bearded, wearing a dark jacket and beanie with a pom-pom on top.

Filings in the criminal case against Julian Khater and George Tanios include this photo from the Jan. 6 riot on the U.S. Capitol. The footage shows a circle around Khater, in a distinctive hat, as he raises his arm to deploy bear spray in the direction of law enforcement officers. Officer Bagshaw's body-worn camera captures him noticing these actions, approaches Khater and deploys his own spray. (Justice Department via Courthouse News)

Federal prosecutors later acknowledged that the two men had bear spray in their possession but deployed another chemical irritant at the officer. 

Officer Edwards said the spray left her with lasting injuries under her eyes, and she, along with Chapman described the substance as “stronger than any version of pepper spray they had been exposed to during their training.” The chemical irritant incapacitated the officers for over 20 minutes as they covered their faces and ran to find water.

Both Tanios and Khater have been jailed since their March arrest on nine counts. They aren’t alleged to have caused the Sicknick’s death, as an autopsy found that the police officer died Jan. 7 of natural causes. 

“The court finds that no condition or combination of conditions of release will reasonably assure the safety of the community,” U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan, a Reagan appointee, said in his May order denying their request to be released on bond pending trial. 

The appeals court reversed only the district court’s order for Tanios. Two weeks ago, another three-judge panel ordered that Khater remain locked up while he waits for his trial. 

Follow Samantha Hawkins on Twitter

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.