WASHINGTON — The demise of a Washington police officer who died by suicide simply days after he was assaulted through the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol has been dominated a line-of-duty demise, a discovering that makes his widow eligible for enhanced survivor advantages.
“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,” the D.C. Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board wrote in a letter obtained by NBC News on Wednesday.
Metropolitan Police Officer Jeffrey Smith died on Jan. 15.
Smith, in line with his widow, described Jan. 6, 2021, because the worst day of his life. After her husband’s demise, Erin Smith discovered she had misplaced her medical advantages by his job whereas she was standing at a pharmacy counter.
Smith later stated her late husband was “just not his normal self” after Jan. 6.
A former D.C. chief medical expert stated in an earlier assessment that there was “a direct cause and effect relationship between the line of duty work trauma on Jan. 6 and Jeffrey Smith’s death,” including that Smith had “no prior history of depression, mental health issues or mental health treatment.”
Body digital camera video reveals at the least two assaults on Smith on Jan. 6: one contained in the Capitol and one other outdoors the constructing, when he was struck with a flying metallic pole. The video confirmed what Erin Smith recalled her husband as having advised her: that he’d been “punched in the face, hit in the head with a metal pole.”
David P. Weber, an lawyer for Smith’s property, stated it is very uncommon for an officer suicide to be declared a line-of-duty demise.
“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,” Weber stated. “This will impact widows, widowers, children and parents of everyday heroes who have suffered these injuries in the line of duty.”
Erin Smith filed her declare with the D.C. Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board in August. In an interview Wednesday evening, she stated the board’s resolution was “the start of Jeff getting the honor that he deserves.”
“He was a hero that day, we knew it all along. Now the city has stated his death was a line-of-duty death. He deserves the recognition that every other officer receives,” she stated.
With the designation, Smith will obtain full survival advantages.
“At the end of the day, a lot of the push for this was to help the next person so they don’t have to fight for eight months to get recognition for their loved one,” Smith stated. “Your heart health is just as important as your brain health.”
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who has fought for survivor advantages for Erin Smith, praised the board’s resolution.
“I’m so relieved that following our push for it, Virginian Officer Jeffrey Smith will receive the official officer’s line-of-duty death designation, entitling his survivors to full benefits,” Kaine said in a statement. “We will forever be grateful for his service to protect our Capitol.”
Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., stated there was “no question” that Smith ought to get full memorial honors and that it was necessary to take away the stigma hooked up to suicide.
“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. His heroism led to his death, which absolutely occurred in the line of duty, and the official acknowledgement of that fact is an important moment that I hope will bring a measure of solace to his family and friends,” Beyer stated in an announcement.
“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,” Beyer added.
Smith was one in every of at the least 4 officers who died by suicide within the months after they responded to the assault on the Capitol. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died of pure causes a day after the Jan. 6 riot, when he was attacked with chemical spray.
Julie Tsirkin contributed.