WASHINGTON — A retirement board has decided that a D.C. police officer who responded to the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol and later died by suicide was killed in the line of duty.
Officer Jeffrey Smith died by suicide just days after the events of Jan. 6. He is one of four cops to die by suicide due to the aftermath of the riots at the U.S. Capitol.
According to a release from Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), who represented fallen MPD Officer Jeffrey Smith, the D.C. Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board determined Smith's death was due to sustaining "a personal injury on January 6, 2021, while performing his duties and that his injury was the sole and direct cause of his death.”
“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 6th," said Beyer. "His heroism led to his death, which absolutely occurred in the line of duty, and the official acknowledgment of that fact is an important moment that I hope will bring a measure of solace to his family and friends."
Beyer said the decision came after Smith's widow, Erin Smith, fought for over a year to win official recognition of the fact that her husband’s death occurred in the line of duty.
"I am particularly thinking of Erin Smith tonight, who has shown remarkable tenacity and courage through the terrible ordeal that began with the loss of her husband and lasted through the long fight to win this recognition," said Smith.
A letter obtained by WUSA9 shows the D.C. Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board approved Erin Smith's request for enhanced survivor benefits following her husband's death, which is typically only given to families of officers who die in the line of duty.
Now that Smith's death is deemed as a line of duty death, Erin Smith will receive an annuity equal to 100% of her husband's salary.
Beyer hopes the decision will help policymakers, including Congress, to update laws in a way that will remove the stigma wrongly attached to suicide.
"Far too many people in uniform have been lost to suicide after experiencing severe trauma, and we owe it to them to right this wrong and fight for more empathetic responses to their struggles and sacrifices even as we fight the scourge of suicide itself," said Beyer. "This moral imperative is made clearer by the loss of Jeffrey Smith and his fellow officers after their bravery at the Capitol on January 6th."
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). You can also text a crisis counselor by messaging the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
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