The widow of a DC cop who killed himself after being assaulted during the January 6 attack on the Capitol blames rioters for her husband’s suicide – and spoke of her outrage that his death was not ruled to be in the line of duty.
Erin Smith shared her story in an opinion piece for USA Today yesterday, just three days after her husband Jeffrey was recognized by President Joe Biden at a ceremony awarding the 6,050 cops who responded at the riot with a Congressional Gold Medal.
Jeffrey Smith, 35, shot himself in the head on Jan. 15 as he headed into work for an overnight shift. It has since not been ruled to be in the line of duty, but Erin insists that her husband would still be here were it not for January 6, and says greater consider
‘I was feeling helpless and scared as I saw the Capitol come under siege,’ Erin wrote in USA Today, adding that she began getting phone alerts and texts about what was happening at the Capitol.
Meanwhile, Jeffrey, a 12-year Metropolitan Police Department officer, let Erin know that he was there and had been reassigned to a Civil Disturbance Unit.
Jeffrey Smith (left), killed himself after being assaulted during the January 6 attack on the Capitol, where he responded Metropolitan Police Department. His wife Erin blames the rioters for his death
Erin shared her story in an opinion piece for USA Today yesterday and spoke of her outrage that it was not ruled to be in the line of duty
Jeffrey was recently recognized by President Joe Biden at a ceremony awarding the 6,050 cops who responded at the riot with a Congressional Gold Medal
‘All I could do was watch and worry about his safety,’ she wrote and noted that her husband texted her ‘London has Fallen.’ The quote, which references a disaster movie the couple watched together, meant that the rioters had the upper hand.
For several hours, Erin was on needles as she watched what was happening from the couple’s home in Virginia. Then, she wrote, ‘I got the text I had been dreading.’
Jeffrey let Erin know that he was on the way to the Police and Fire Clinic. She later learned that he had been struck by a metal pole that hit his helmet and face shield.
Jeffrey alerted his supervisors that he was in pain from his injuries at 9pm and checked into the facility at 10.15, according to records. Jeffrey checked out of the clinic at 1.31am on Jan. 7, with his status listed as ‘sick.’ There was no diagnosis listed, however.
‘Things changed for Jeffrey on Jan. 6,’ Erin wrote. ‘He became quiet and moody, sometimes testy. He was not happy with the care he received at the Police and Fire Clinic, and he was still in pain. He was waiting for his follow-up appointment.’
However, she wrote, his follow-up meeting was ‘the shortest doctor’s appointment he ever had’ and he was ordered back to work the next day – Jan. 15 – for an overnight shift.
During the riot, Jeffrey texted Erin ‘London has Fallen,’ a reference to a movie the couple watched together which meant that the rioters had the upper hand
Erin later learned that Jeffrey had been struck by a metal pole that hit his helmet and face shield
Erin wrote that Jeffrey wasn’t the same after the riot. He died by suicide on Jan. 15
Jeffrey shot himself in the head on his way to that shift. He was found in his beloved Ford Mustang in an embankment along the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
‘The reminders of Jan. 6 are all around me,’ Erin wrote. She described feeling grief every time she looks at his work shoes or his uniform still hanging on his closet door. Even the couple’s dog begging for a walk reminds her that her husband isn’t there to take him.
Jeffrey loved his job and would often tell Erin stories about meeting tourists and showing them around town.
‘Medical experts, including the former chief medical examiner of the District of Columbia, have told me the events of Jan. 6 are the direct cause of Jeffrey’s death,’ Erin wrote, noting, however, that the D.C. government and Metropolitan Police Department don’t see it this way.
She wrote, ‘because my husband’s injuries were emotional, invisible, he didn’t die in the line of duty.’
‘It’s time for the mayor, the Metropolitan Police Department, the D.C. government, and other departments and governments around the country to recognize that silent injuries, these deaths, even when at a police officer’s own hand, are a direct result of the job they have been doing.’
Jeffrey is one of fourth officers who responded to the riot and have since died by suicide. DC Metropolitan Officer Kyle DeFreytag, 26, killed himself on July 10. The DC Metro Police sent a memo to staff in mid July informing them of his death but it only became public on Aug. 2 after the suicide of another cop was reported
Howard Liebengood, 51, was the first officer to take his life after the riot and died on January 9
Jeffrey is one of fourth officers who responded to the riot and have since died by suicide. DC Metropolitan Officer Kyle DeFreytag, 26, took his life on July 10 and became the fourth confirmed suicide of a cop who served on Jan. 6. The other two include Howard Liebengood, 51, and Gunther Hashida, 43.
The four Capitol officers’ deaths represents a suicide rate of 0.06 – six times as many as the 0.01 rate of suicide among police – 17 out of every 100,000 cops.
Howard Liebengood was the first officer to take his life after the riot. He had worked in the Senate and his loved ones said afterwards it was his favorite posting. He was survived by his wife and his siblings.
In a letter that was obtained by CBS earlier this year, his widow Serena said his death was a direct result of the riot.
Like Erin, she is also pushing for the United States Capitol Police to reclassify his death to a line of duty death.
Erin wrote, ‘Their families should receive the same support and assistance as every other fallen officer’s family. Instead, we have been stigmatized, had our health insurance taken, denied even the courtesy of an official burial.’