Authorities on Friday arrested a man accused of assaulting D.C. Metropolitan police officer Mike Fanone, who was allegedly beaten and tased by a mob of rioters during the assault on the U.S. Capitol. Charging documents say Thomas Sibick ripped Fanone’s badge and radio off his uniform during the assault on the west front steps, and subsequently buried the badge in his back yard.
Prosecutors allege Sibick, of Buffalo, New York, assaulted Fanone when he ripped off the badge and radio. The assault allegedly occurred while Fanone was being beaten and tased by a group of rioters who had pulled him out of the police line.
As a result of the violence, Officer Fanone lost consciousness and was subsequently hospitalized for his injuries, which likely included a concussion and injuries from the taser, court documents said. Sibick is not accused of beating or tasing Fanone.
Sibick is charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement, obstruction of law enforcement, and taking from a person anything of value by force, among other charges. A federal judge in the Western District of New York granted him release into home confinement over the government’s objection this afternoon. The Justice Department has appealed that decision in D.C. Federal court, where the case will be further prosecuted.
Fanone said he was positioned at a West entrance to the Capitol along with a few dozen other officers, facing off against a mob of rioters who were attempting to storm the building, when someone grabbed him out of the police line and dragged him into the crowd alone.
“It was brutal, just beaten, struck with a variety of different objects,” Fanone said during a January interview with CBS News. He said he was tasered “probably about a half dozen times.”
Prosecutors say Sibick initially denied being part of the crowd attacking the officer during an interview with FBI agents.
But when federal investigators confronted him with still images from Fanone’s body camera video, Sibick allegedly admitted that he was part of the crowd — but claimed to have only grabbed the officer’s badge and radio in an attempt to pull him away from the mob. Sibick allegedly told the agents that after taking possession of the items, he placed the radio and badge in a trash can on Constitution Avenue and did not return them to law enforcement because he was afraid of being arrested.
Prosecutors say Sibick later recanted that statement to the FBI agents, claiming instead that he disposed of the items in a hotel dumpster upon his return to Buffalo. After an agent emailed Sibick to say authorities would be reviewing security footage from the hotel to confirm his claim, Sibick allegedly called the agents saying he was “distraught” and “wanted to do the right thing,” and admitted that he had buried the officer’s badge in his backyard. He allegedly handed it over to the FBI muddied, in a ziploc.
A photo allegedly showing the muddied badge Sibick returned to police.
Describing his experience with the mob to CBS News in January, Fanone said people began to chant, “Kill him with his own gun,” and that some in the crowd started grabbing for his weapon.
In an interview with CBS affiliate WUSA9 in January, Fanone said that he considered killing people — but thought that if he did, “they’re going to take the gun away and kill me.”
He added that he thought his best chance of survival was to “try to appeal to someone’s humanity” and said he yelled to the crowd that he had children. He explained that some of the protestors eventually came to his aid, surrounding him to help him leave the crowd.
Fanone told WUSA9 he spent a day and a half in the hospital after the attack, and he said had message to the group that helped him escape the crowd: “Thank you, but f**k you for being there.”
He also described the assault as a “coordinated effort,” and said, “I mean, they were almost counting cadence as they were pushing against us,” referring to the military practice of chanting in a call and response pattern.
Before he was pulled into the crowd and beaten, Fanone said he saw Officer Daniel Hodges bleeding and being crushed between a door and the mob as they screamed, “heave-ho.”
Hodges told CBS News in January that a rioter ripped off his gas mask, beat his head against the door, and took his baton and hit him in the head with it.
“I definitely considered that that might be it,” Hodges said. “I might not be able to make it out of there.”
Authorities arrested Patrick Edward McCaughey III in January, alleging that he used a police riot shield to pin Hodges to the door as Hodges cried out in pain. McCaughey was charged with crimes including assaulting an officer with a dangerous weapon and civil disorder.
No one has yet been charged in the death of Officer Brian Sicknick, but a U.S. official told CBS News last month that the FBI was focusing on one man as a possible suspect.
Almost 140 officers from the U.S. Capitol Police and the D.C. Metropolitan Police were injured during the riot, Capitol Police Labor Union Chairman Gus Papathanasiou said in a January statement provided to CBS8.
“I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack who have sustained brain injuries,” Papathanasiou said in the statement. “One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal disks. One officer is going to lose his eye, and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake.”