Second police officer dies by suicide after Capitol attack
A second police officer who responded to the attack on the Capitol by a violent mob on Jan. 6 has died by suicide, according to the acting Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) chief.
Acting MPD Chief Robert Contee identified the officer as Jeffrey Smith, who he said was injured while trying to help contain the mob of former President Trump’s supporters attempting to stop Congress from certifying President Biden’s electoral victory.
“That was a very sad and tragic situation for us,” Contee said during a press conference on Wednesday. “He had been injured as a result of the confrontation that had occurred at the Capitol and a couple of days after that, the officer, he took his life.”
Contee said that Smith was apparently on his way to work on the George Washington Parkway when he took his own life. The U.S. Park Police is handling the investigation of Smith’s death since it occurred in its jurisdiction.
“Obviously again, our condolences go to the Smith family, his entire family, for such a tragic loss,” Contee said.
At least two other police officers have also died in the aftermath of the attack on the Capitol. Howard Liebengood, a Capitol Police officer, also died by suicide after being on duty at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Another Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick, died at a hospital one day after the riot after he was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher.
Contee said in testimony on Tuesday before the House Appropriations Committee, in which he also revealed Smith’s death, that at least 65 MPD officers filed reports after they were injured while responding to the attack. He noted that “many more” officers were injured with scratches, bruises or eyes burning from bear spray but did not submit reports to document their injuries.
The chairman of the Capitol Police officers’ union, Gus Papathanasiou, said Wednesday that about 140 officers total between the U.S. Capitol Police and MPD were injured. He noted that a number of Capitol Police officers were severely injured.
“I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack who have sustained brain injuries. One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs. One officer is going to lose his eye, and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake,” Papathanasiou said.
The admissions came after the acting Capitol Police chief, Yogananda Pittman, testified before the House Appropriations Committee and apologized for the department’s failure to adequately prepare for the attack despite knowing days in advance that armed militia groups and white supremacists posed a threat. Pittman assumed her current role after the former Capitol Police chief, Steven Sund, resigned following the Jan. 6 riot.
“We knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target,” Pittman said. “The department prepared in order to meet these challenges, but we did not do enough.”
Papathanasiou called the Capitol Police’s failure to prepare for the violence and inform rank-and-file officers “unconscionable” and “inexcusable.”
“The officers are angry, and I don’t blame them. The entire executive team failed us, and they must be held accountable. Their inaction cost lives,” Papathanasiou said.
Pittman acknowledged in her testimony that many Capitol Police officers are suffering from trauma after working on the front lines against the violent mob and from the loss of their colleagues.
Overall, Contee estimated that about 850 MPD officers were at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and another 250 were in the area to support the response.
“While the police officers are out here, you know, they’ve been in, really in a state of just dealing with constant trauma and tragedy since the beginning of the unrest in the early part of the summer,” Contee said. “The health and wellness, the mental wellness, of our officers is certainly important and certainly something that I’m working on to make sure we can give them the support that they need to make it through the things that they need to make it through in light of all the trauma that they’ve seen and experienced.”
Four other people died as a result of the Jan. 6 attack: A member of the mob who was shot by a Capitol Police officer while attempting to breach the House chamber and three others who died of medical emergencies.
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.