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Grand jury indicts men accused of assaulting Officer Sicknick and two others with bear spray

An official cause of death for Officer Brian Sicknick has not been released.

WASHINGTON — A federal grand jury returned an indictment on 10 counts this week against two men accused of assaulting police, including Officer Brian Sicknick, with bear spray during the Capitol riot.

Julian Elie Khater, 32, of Pennsylvania, and George Pierre Tanios, 39 of Morgantown, West Virginia, were arrested Sunday and charged with assaulting federal officers, conspiring to injure officers and other charges.

The two appeared in federal court on Monday for their initial hearings. On Thursday, a grand jury indictment against them was unsealed. The indictment includes one count each of assault on a federal officer with a dangerous weapon and obstruction of an official proceeding – both of which carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Neither Khater nor Tanios have been accused by the FBI in Sicknick's death.

Sicknick died January 7, a day after thousands of pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol. According to a Capitol Police statement at the time of his death, Sicknick “was injured while physically engaging with protesters” and collapsed after he had returned to his office following the riot.

The D.C. Medical Examiner’s Officer has yet to release autopsy results or a cause of death for Sicknick.

RELATED: 1 month later: Who killed Officer Brian Sicknick?

In an affidavit, the Department of Justice said Khater and Tanios "were observed in video footage working together to assault law enforcement officers with an unknown chemical substance by spraying officers directly in the face and eyes."

The DOJ said as part of the investigation into Khater and Tanios, they uncovered video that showed Khater asking Tanios to “give me that bear s*it.” Tanios replied, “Hold on, hold on, not yet, not yet… it’s still early.” The video then allegedly shows Khater retrieving a canister from Tanios’ backpack and walking "through the crowd to within a few steps of the police perimeter," according to the affidavit. 

The Justice Department says three officers were struck with bear spray by Khater: Officers Edwards, Sicknick and Chapman. According to the affidavit, all three were temporarily blinded and were incapacitated for at least 20 minutes. Officer Edwards reported "lasting injuries underneath her eyes, including scabbing that remained on her face for weeks."

In February, WUSA9 reported many police officers say they were hit with bear spray during hand to hand combat with rioters. But an expert interviewed by WUSA 9 said she was unaware of any instances in which bear spray has caused a death.

“I am not aware of any human deaths after bear spray exposure,” said Dr. Kelly Johnson- Arbor, medical director at The National Capitol Poison Center.

“The capsaicinoids in bear spray and pepper spray are irritating, but generally cause self-limited irritation of the skin, eyes, and mouth (i.e., enough irritation to make a bear turn around and run away, but not kill it). If someone had an underlying health condition such as asthma, that irritation could potentially cause an asthma attack or difficulty breathing.”

According to the FBI, Khater was identified by a former coworker after his face was put on a wanted poster. Tanios was reportedly identified by two tipsters, including one who told the FBI he had "bragged about going to the insurrection at the Capitol." Another identified him as the owner of the "Fat Sandwich" restaurant.

Tanios was also reportedly identified by a former business partner who told the FBI they had known each other for 15 years and that Tanios had allegedly embezzled $435,000 from their former business.

The FBI is looking for individuals who may have incited or promoted violence of any kind. Anyone with digital material or tips can call 1-800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324) or submit images or videos at fbi.gov/USCapitol.

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