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Opinion Officers Sicknick and Liebengood showed what real patriotism looks like

Police officers salute during the procession for U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick in Washington on Sunday. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Clarification: Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick suffered two strokes and died of natural causes the day after he confronted rioters during the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to the D.C. medical examiner. Initial reports that rioters attacked him with a fire extinguisher, cited in an earlier version of this editorial, proved to be incorrect. This version has been updated.

THEY STOOD at attention and saluted U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick on Sunday — scores of law enforcement officers paying respects to one of their own as his funeral cortege made its way past the building. He died the day after a mob summoned by President Trump attacked the Capitol. Another Capitol Police officer, Howard “Howie” Liebengood, died by his own hand, at home, a few days later.

There is no sugarcoating the criminal brutality both confronted. And there is no overstating their courage and heroism. Both were among an outmanned, overstretched, underprepared force that was swarmed, abused and, in some cases, beaten by a bloody-minded rabble numbering in the thousands.

Crowd control is part of the job police are sworn to perform, but few apparently expected, or could have imagined, the scale of lawlessness and villainy they faced Jan. 6, or the failings of leadership that left them so exposed.

On Sunday, Mr. Trump ordered flags lowered to half-staff to honor both Officers Sicknick and Liebengood — though he issued no personal statement offering condolence to either.

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Both were good men and good officers, admired, liked and possessed of a sense of duty. Officer Sicknick, 42, who joined the force in 2008, dreamed of becoming a police officer since he was a boy in New Jersey. Soon after graduating from high school, he enlisted in the National Guard, serving in Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan as he planned a career in law enforcement, his family said. OfficerLiebengood, 51, was a professional racecar driver before joining the Capitol Police in 2005, having grown up in the Washington area as the son of a former Senate sergeant-at-arms, lobbyist and Hill staffer.

Officer Sicknick’s death is the subject of a criminal investigation, a reminder of what the Capitol became when it was sacked last Wednesday: a crime scene.

It isn’t known whether or how Officer Liebengood’s death is connected with the events last week. What is clear is that the Capitol Police, and the broader community of people who work on the Hill, are staggered by the loss of two men who were fixtures at an institution that President-elect Joe Biden called “the citadel of liberty.”

The word “patriots” was expropriated and twisted beyond recognition by the hoodlums who rampaged through our Capitol, dishonoring their country and desecrating one of its foremost symbols. They were not patriots. By contrast, Officers Sicknick and Liebengood embodied the spirit of patriotism. Their deaths, said former senator and secretary of state John F. Kerry, are “a tragic loss of two patriots who spent their careers protecting the halls of democracy.”

Read more:

Hillary Clinton: Trump should be impeached. But that alone won’t remove white supremacy from America.

Jennifer Rubin: Republicans who aren’t willing to act against sedition are complicit

The Post’s View: The catastrophic security failures at the U.S. Capitol must be investigated

David Ignatius: What went wrong with the protection of the U.S. Capitol

E.J. Dionne Jr.: In the Capitol nightmare, democracy prevailed

The Jan. 6 insurrection

The report: The Jan. 6 committee released its final report, marking the culmination of an 18-month investigation into the violent insurrection. Read The Post’s analysis about the committee’s new findings and conclusions.

The final hearing: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held its final public meeting where members referred four criminal charges against former president Donald Trump and others to the Justice Department. Here’s what the criminal referrals mean.

The riot: On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. Five people died on that day or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were assaulted.

Inside the siege: During the rampage, rioters came perilously close to penetrating the inner sanctums of the building while lawmakers were still there, including former vice president Mike Pence. The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and videos to create a video timeline of what happened on Jan. 6. Here’s what we know about what Trump did on Jan. 6.