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Fallen Capitol Police officer to lie in honor in Rotunda

Fallen Capitol Police officer to lie in honor in Rotunda
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The fallen Capitol Police officer who was fatally injured while trying to contain the violent mob that descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6 will receive the rare distinction of lying in the Rotunda starting Tuesday night. 

Officer Brian Sicknick will follow two Capitol Police officers who similarly laid in honor in 1998, after they died in the line of duty when a gunman entered the Capitol and opened fire.

The ceremony, in what is arguably the grandest part of the Capitol, comes at a heavily fraught time for the Capitol Police force and its leadership in the midst of the National Guard having to come in to fortify the complex.

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Its members are still suffering from trauma weeks after the attack and reckoning with their leadership’s failure to adequately prepare for the throngs of Trump supporters that attempted to stop Congress from certifying President Biden’s election victory. 

Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman acknowledged to lawmakers last week that the department knew days in advance that some armed militia groups and white supremacists posed a threat to the Jan. 6 Electoral College count proceedings, but did not secure National Guard support ahead of time.

At least 140 officers between the Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police forces were injured during the attack, some with severe injuries ranging from cracked ribs and smashed spinal discs to one officer expected to lose an eye. 

Sicknick is one of three police officers who responded to the Jan. 6 riots and died in the aftermath. Howard Liebengood, a Capitol Police officer, and Jeffrey Smith, a Metropolitan Police officer, both died of suicide in the days following the riot.

Sicknick’s casket will arrive at the Capitol at approximately 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, with an overnight viewing period starting shortly afterward for his former colleagues in the Capitol Police force in which he served for more than 12 years.

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Members of Congress will then be able to view Sicknick's flag-draped casket in the Capitol Rotunda early Wednesday morning ahead of a tribute ceremony at 10:30 a.m. 

Sicknick, who served in the Air National Guard before becoming a Capitol Police officer, will later be interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

“The U.S. Congress is united in grief, gratitude and solemn appreciation for the service and sacrifice of Officer Brian Sicknick,” Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi criticized after thanking Floyd for 'sacrificing' his life Waters on Chauvin guilty verdict: 'I'm not celebrating, I'm relieved' Minneapolis mayor on Floyd: 'Ultimately his life will have bettered our city' MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerLawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' Overnight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson pause seen as 'responsible' in poll | Women turning out more than men for COVID-19 vaccines 'Real Housewives of the GOP' — Wannabe reality show narcissists commandeer the party MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement. 

Bipartisan support for Sicknick lying in honor in the Capitol Rotunda has been building for weeks since his death on Jan. 7, when he succumbed to his injuries from being bludgeoned while engaging with the rioters.  

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who represents the Northern Virginia district where Sicknick lived, declared in a statement a day after the late officer’s death that he “deserves” the honor of lying posthumously in the Capitol Rotunda.

Last Thursday, South Carolina Republicans Rep. Ralph NormanRalph Warren NormanOvernight Energy: EPA pledges new focus on environmental justice | Republicans probe EPA firing of Trump-appointed science advisers | Biden administration asks court to toss kids' climate lawsuit Republicans probe EPA firing of Trump-appointed science advisers Republican rips GOP lawmakers for voting by proxy from CPAC MORE and Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottChauvin found guilty as nation exhales Lawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' Tim Scott: 'No question' Floyd jury reached 'the right verdict' MORE introduced legislation to authorize the use of the Capitol Rotunda for Sicknick to lie in honor and ensure there is also a plaque honoring him near the Capitol steps.

By Friday, Pelosi and Schumer announced that Sicknick would receive the rare honor of lying in the Capitol Rotunda.

Only four other people in U.S. history have lain in honor — the designation for people who were not government or military officials — in the Capitol Rotunda.

The others were Capitol Police officer Jacob Chestnut and detective John Gibson after the July 1998 shooting in the Capitol, civil rights icon Rosa Parks in 2005 and evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham in 2018.

There is also a plaque in the Capitol near the place where Chestnut and Gibson died in the line of duty.

Tuesday will mark the third time in less than a year that lawmakers have honored someone posthumously in the Capitol. 

The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgMcConnell vents over 'fake news' Democrats seek Barrett's recusal from case tied to conservative backers Court packing legislation straight out of Maduro's playbook MORE laid in state in Statuary Hall in September, while the late Rep. John LewisJohn LewisProgressives put Democrats on defense Democrats face mounting hurdles to agenda Democrats see opportunity as states push new voting rules MORE (D-Ga.) laid in state in the Capitol Rotunda last July with a public viewing on the East Front steps due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Some lawmakers want to bestow additional honors for Sicknick. Reps. Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanBiden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package Senate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote Progressives won't oppose bill over limits on stimulus checks MORE (D-N.J.) and Beyer introduced a bill last week to posthumously award Sicknick with a Congressional Gold Medal.

A bipartisan group of senators have also introduced legislation to award another Capitol Police officer, Eugene Goodman, with a Congressional Gold Medal for successfully leading members of the mob away from an unprotected door to the Senate chamber as lawmakers and staff inside were still evacuating. 

“Officer Brian Sicknick’s service and sacrifice will never be forgotten. These honors, accorded to few, are richly deserved by one who gave his life in defense of American democracy,” Beyer said.