Multiple major media outlets, including CNN, NPR, the Huffington Post, and many individual reporters and verified accounts published and widely shared a story on Thursday that the events at the Capitol on Wednesday had resulted in the death of a United States Capitol Police Officer.
Mediaite reached out to Capitol Police communications director Eva Malecki upon seeing several conflicting reports after the story had become the top trending topic on Twitter. Malecki promptly responded with a statement to Mediaite saying that the reports are not accurate and that “no USCP officers have passed away”:
Media reports regarding the death of a United States Capitol Police (USCP) officer are not accurate. Although some officers were injured and hospitalized yesterday, no USCP officers have passed away.
We ask that our officers’ and their families’ privacy be respected at this time. Should a statement become necessary, the Department will issue one at the appropriate time.
Politico’s Olivia Beavers reported that at least one officer is “very critically injured,” which may be the officer in question. The Capitol Police emphasized that the family’s privacy should be respected, and that another statement may come later if necessary.
The original story was major news on social media, with some Twitter accounts going on to suggest that murder charges were already on the table.
CNN’s initial report relied on unnamed sources.
The story itself was fairly brief.
The New York Times story, also citing unnamed sources, was more specific. “The Capitol police officer who died, was killed by a Trump supporter who hit him over the head with a fire extinguisher during the insurrection,” it said:
The officer is the fifth person whose death has been linked to Wednesday’s mayhem. One protester was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer inside the building, and three others died after experiencing medical emergencies, officials have said.
The officer, whose name was not immediately released, had been hit with a fire extinguisher, the two law enforcement officials said. But it was not clear if the blunt force had killed him; a chemical agent may have led to his death, one of the officials said.
The F.B.I. is investigating his death as a possible federal murder case, the law enforcement official said.
That article has now been deleted and replaced with an editor’s note.
CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Pérez, also citing an unnamed source, added that murder charges were being looked at by U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C.
DC US Attorney’s Office plans to open a federal murder investigation following this officer’s death, law enforcement official says. https://t.co/ABIoh27nGP
— Evan Pérez (@evanperez) January 8, 2021
The possibility of charging murder, especially to political figures, was widely discussed.
However, again, the on the record response sent to Mediaite from the Capitol Police states plainly that this is inaccurate and that “no USCP officers have passed away.”
On social media, Twitter made the reported death the top story. At approximately 8:30pm ET on Thursday, it was at the top of the trending list.
By 8:59 pm it had changed to this:
At the time of this posting, Capitol Police have not changed their statement. The New York Times deleted the story and replaced it with an editor’s note. CNN has reported on air that an officer is “on life support” but has not passed away from injuries sustained on Wednesday. NPR tweeted a correction to their earlier tweet.
UPDATE: U.S. Capitol Police have issued a statement saying one of their officers has not died.
“Although some officers were injured and hospitalized yesterday, no USCP officers have passed away,” they said.
We’ve deleted a previous tweet on this story below. pic.twitter.com/NVQ936ywXZ
— NPR Politics (@nprpolitics) January 8, 2021
Some reports indicated that some of the injuries may be very serious or life-threatening. If the situation changes or more information becomes available this story may be updated.
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