US Capitol rioter gets nearly 7 years in jail for bear spraying officer

WASHINGTON (AFP): A New Jersey man was sentenced Friday to nearly seven years in prison for shooting bear spray in the face of a police officer during the 2021 Capitol riot.

The 42-year-old officer, Brian Sicknick, died the next day in the hospital of what initially were said to be natural causes, but the spraying was believed to be a contributing factor.

The 80-month prison term handed to Julian Khater was one of the longest sentences so far given to any of the more than 900 people charged after the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot.

In a video cited in his indictment, Khater asks another protester to pass him “that bear thing,” before taking a spray can out of the latter’s backpack.

A little later, he sprayed the can toward the faces of three officers, including Sicknick. Khater was charged with nine counts, including “assaulting an officer with a dangerous weapon” but was not prosecuted for homicide.

Sicknick’s death in the wake of the storming of the US Capitol by militants backing then president Donald Trump has moved many Americans.

President Joe Biden paid his respects in-person when Sicknick’s remains lay in honor at the Capitol, an exceptional honor.