The widow of a DC police officer wants officials to designate her husband’s suicide after the January 6 riot as a death in the line of duty

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they push barricades to storm the US Capitol in Washington D.C on January 6, 2021.
Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

A DC police officer’s widow wants officials to consider her husband’s suicide a line-of-duty death.
"These officers need to be recognized for the horrors they have seen and protected us from."
Federal benefits are not usually given to families for a death "caused by the officer’s intention."
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The widow of a Washington, DC, police officer who died by suicide following the January 6 riot called on officials to designate her husband’s death as one in the line of duty.
Metropolitan Police Department officer Jeffrey Smith, a 12-year veteran of the department, died by a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he was ordered to return to work eight days after the Capitol insurrection, where he was struck in the head by a metal pole.
He was the second officer to die by suicide in the aftermath of the siege.
His widow, Erin Smith, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today, asking state officials in Washington, DC, and the Metropolitan Police Department to deem her husband’s suicide as a death in the line of duty.
"These officers need to be recognized for the horrors they have seen and protected us from," Smith wrote. "Their service needs to be respected. 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," she added.
The op-ed comes after Smith petitioned the Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board on Friday to consider her husband’s line-of-duty death. The designation comes with greater financial benefits as well as dignity, she said, The New York Times reported last week.
In the Monday op-ed, Smith wrote that medical experts had told her the events that transpired on January 6 "are the direct cause of Jeffrey’s death." She also made the connection between her husband’s death and the riot by citing President Joe Biden signing a bill into law awarding congressional gold medals to police officers who defended the Capitol, and how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to help her and families who endured the same tragedy.
"In the meantime, my husband is gone, and the District of Columbia government, so far, has taken the position that for some reason, because my husband’s injuries were emotional, invisible, he didn’t die in the line of duty," she wrote.
More than 95% of suicides in the military are deemed line-of-duty deaths unless presented "substantial evidence … supports any different conclusion," according to the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center & School.
However, with regard to police officer suicides, a federal benefit of $370,000 cannot be granted to the families of fallen officers for any death "caused by the officer’s intention," according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
A study conducted by researchers at the Ruderman Foundation in April 2018 revealed that first responders, including policemen and firefighters, are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty as a result of mental illness and trauma which stems from exposure to tragedy in their careers.
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