Families seek 'line of duty' recognition in suicides of two Capitol police officers

Families seek 'line of duty' recognition in suicides of two Capitol police officers
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Families of two Capitol police officers who died by suicide after the Capitol riot seek “line of duty” recognition for the officers' deaths.

Officers Jeffrey Smith's and Howard Liebengood's families say they deserve line of duty recognition because they believe the officers would be alive today if the Jan. 6 riot did not occur, according to The Washington Post.

“But for his service to the country, they believe he would be alive today,” Liebengood family attorney Barry Pollack told the Post.

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Smith's family has sought support for their cause from members of Congress, the Post reported.

A spokesperson for Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who represents the state where both officers lived, told The Hill that Kaine “believes these are line of duty deaths.”

Most line of duty death recognitions do not include suicide due to the fact that suicide cannot be attributed to one reason. The recognition is normally for officers killed on duty. 

However, Smith's wife said her husband, who had no history of depression, was not the same after the riot.

“He wasn’t the same Jeff that left on the sixth. ... I just tried to comfort him and let him know that I loved him,” Erin Smith, Jeffery Smith’s wife, said. “I told him I’d be there if he needed anything, that no matter what we’ll get through it. I tried to do the best I could.”

Greggory Pemberton, chairman of the D.C. police union, believes line of duty recognition is not warranted at this time but will support an investigation into the reason why the officers took their own lives, according to the Post. 

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The day of the riot was a traumatic experience for many officers protecting the Capitol. At least 134 officers were injured, including an officer crushed between doors and another who lost a finger. Officer Brian Sicknick died a day later after being hit in the head during the riot with a fire extinguisher.

The Hill has reached out to U.S. Capitol Police for comment.

“It is time the District recognized that some of the greatest risks police officers face lead to silent injuries,” David P. Weber, the Smith family’s attorney, told the Post. “Why do we say that one person is honored and another person is forgotten? They all faced the exact same circumstances.”

Updated at 3:13 p.m.