There is no sugarcoating the criminal brutality both confronted; Officer Sicknick was pummeled by a rioter wielding a fire extinguisher, according to witnesses. 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.
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. Officer Liebengood, 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. Among the many prosecutions that will arise from that infamous day, none can be more pressing than the killing of a police officer who was discharging his duties.
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.”