A second police officer who responded to the riots at the Capitol earlier this month has died by suicide, the D.C. police chief revealed on Tuesday evening.
Jeffery Smith had worked for the Metropolitan Police Department for 12 years and died on Jan. 15—just nine days after thousands of MAGA supporters stormed the Capitol.
“Officer Jeffrey Smith’s service and presence will be dearly missed at the Second District,” MPD Second District Commander Duncan Bedlion told The Daily Beast in an email. “My prayers are with his family during a very difficult time.”
Smith is the second police officer to die by suicide after working at the Capitol on the day of the siege. U.S. Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood, a 51-year-old who had guarded the government building since 2005, took his own life on Jan. 9.
“My prayers are with the family and colleagues of Officer Jeffery Smith,” California Rep. Ted Lieu (D) wrote on Twitter Wednesday.
Another officer, U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, died in the hospital on Jan. 7 from injuries sustained “while physically engaging with protesters.” Four pro-Trump insurrectionists also died during the siege, including a woman who was shot by police while trying to break into the House chamber, a 55-year-old Alabama man who had a heart attack, a Georgia woman who was reportedly crushed in the crowd, and a Philadelphia man who suffered a stroke.
“We honor the service and sacrifices of Officers Brian Sicknick, Howard Liebengood, and Jeffery Smith, and offer condolences to all the grieving families,” acting MPD Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said during remarks before the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday evening.
Contee said MPD sent 850 police officers, nearly a quarter of its force, to assist in protecting the Capitol during the insurrection.
Sixty-five MPD officers reported injuries from the attack, and many more had wounds such as “scratches, bruises, eyes burning from bear mace—that they did not even bother to report,” he said.
Officer Liebengood worked in the Senate Division and was the son of the late Sergeant at Arms Howard S. Liebengood. “Every Capitol Police Officer puts the security of others before their own safety and Officer Liebengood was an example of the selfless service that is the hallmark of the USCP,” Gus Papathanasiou, the chair of the Capitol Police Labor Committee, said in a statement after Liebengood’s death. “This is a tragic day.”
Former Sen. John Kerry remembered Liebengood on Twitter, saying the officer used to guard a door near his office on the Hill. “Howie always had a smile on his face, but he also showed great care for the safety of the young staff who worked behind our office doors,” Kerry wrote.
The police response to the insurrection at the Capitol has been widely criticized. Although law enforcement knew about potential plans for violence in advance, they were woefully unprepared, and videos showed some officers allowing rioters to enter the building. Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman apologized for the response on Tuesday, saying in a statement, “The Department failed to meet its own high standards as well as yours.”
The Capitol Police union sent a fiery statement responding to Pittman’s admission, calling it “startling” and saying her comments about the department’s preparation failures had “angered and shocked the rank-and-file officers of the Capitol Police.”
“We have one officer who lost his life as a direct result of the insurrection. Another officer had tragically taken his own life. Between USCP and our colleagues at the Metropolitan Police Department, we have almost 140 officers injured,” Papathanasiou wrote.
“I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack who have sustained brain injuries,” Papathanasiou said. “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.” He called the fact that the leadership knew about the attack in advance but failed to adequately prepare “unconscionable.”
If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
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