After Capitol Cop's Suicide, Widow Wins a Legal Fight

Jeffrey Smith's death is ruled to be a 'line-of-duty' death
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2022 1:27 PM CST
After Capitol Cop's Suicide, Widow Wins a Legal Fight
Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington.   (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

(Newser) – A police officer who died by suicide days after protecting the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, has been found to have died in the line of duty. Metropolitan Police Officer Jeffrey Smith died on his way to work on Jan. 15. "Based on evidence submitted by the petitioner and the Department, we find that Officer Smith sustained a personal injury on January 6, 2021, while performing his duties and that his injury was the sole and direct cause of his death," states the DC Police and Firefighters' Retirement and Relief Board, per NBC News. A former DC chief medical examiner previously said there was "a direct cause and effect relationship between the line of duty work trauma on Jan. 6 and Jeffrey Smith's death," noting Smith had no history of mental health issues.

Erin Smith said her husband described Jan. 6 as the worst day of his life. "He didn't know if he was going to get out alive," she told the Huffington Post. Body camera footage shows he was attacked with his own baton—his widow accuses two men who have not been charged—and hit in the head with a metal pole. Afterward, he was "just not his normal self," Smith told NBC. She pushed to have his suicide recognized as a line-of-duty death after losing her medical benefits through his job. She's now eligible for full survivor benefits, including an annuity equal to her husband's salary, per WUSA. But she told NBC that her incentive was to establish her husband as a hero and "to help the next person so they don't have to fight for eight months to get recognition for their loved one."

"This is the first time where someone who has suffered a brain injury, and an emotional injury, has been acknowledged as a line-of-duty death" and this will impact [the loved ones] of everyday heroes who have suffered these injuries in the line of duty," adds Smith attorney David P. Weber. A bipartisan Senate bill also aims to support the families of officers who suffer invisible wounds on the job, including those who die by suicide, per CNN. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who backed the Senate bill and Erin Smith's fight, said he was "relieved" at the decision. Smith, one of at least four police officers to die by suicide in the aftermath of the US Capitol attack, "would still be alive today if he hadn't risked his life to defend all of us at the US Capitol and our democracy itself," said Democratic Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia. (Read more Capitol attack stories.)

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