A D.C. Police officer who took his own life days after sustaining an injury while working at the Capitol on January 6 has been recognized by the District of Columbia as dying in the line of duty.
Washington’s Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board ruled Monday that an injury Metropolitan Police Officer Jeffrey Smith sustained on January 6 “was the sole and direct cause his death,” according to a letter obtained by CBS News.
CNN was first to report Smith’s death had been ruled a line-of-duty death.
The ruling by the District of Columbia comes after a yearlong fight by his widow, Erin Smith, to reverse an earlier decision denying an official recognition that her husband’s death was “in the line of duty”. The distinction also allows Erin Smith to collect enhanced benefits. The designation also bestows certain honors on Smith, as the names of officers who die in the line of duty are etched on memorial walls and are remembered in annual ceremonies.
“Officer Jeffrey Smith would still be alive today if he hadn’t risked his life to defend all of us at the U.S. Capitol and our democracy itself on January 6,” Rep. Don Beyer said in a statement. Beyer, a Democrat, represents the Virginia district where Smith lived.
Smith was one of four officers who took their own lives after responding to the January 6 attack. Police departments have in the past been reluctant to grant the distinction to officers who die by suicide.
“Going forward, it remains incumbent on policymakers, including Congress, to continue to work to update our laws in ways that remove stigma wrongly attached to suicide,” Beyer added.
The family of Howie Liebengood, a Capitol Police officer who also took his own life days after the attack, is also applying for the distinction through the federal government, according to a family spokesman.
Officers Gunther Hashida and Kyle DeFreytag also both died by suicide in July after responding to the Capitol on January 6, MPD announced in August.
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
For more information about mental health care resources and support, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. ET, at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email email@example.com.