Widow of police officer who died by suicide after Capitol riot suing his alleged attacker after he was found by online sleuths

·4 min read
Capitol riot
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 widow of one of the police officers who died by suicide after the Capitol Riot in January is suing her husband's alleged attacker.

  • In the lawsuit, lawyers for Erin Smith argue her husband died as a result of injuries during an attack during the riot.

  • Online sleuths used video from January 6 to identify the man named in the lawsuit.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The estate of DC Police Officer Jeffrey Smith, who died by suicide nine days after the January 6 riot at the US Capitol, filed a lawsuit Friday against the man it alleges attacked her husband during the violence.

The lawsuit was filed by Smith's widow, Erin, and alleges that Smith, who was 35 at the time of his death, suffered a traumatic brain injury in the altercation, which led to his suicide nine days later. It contains the opinion of former DC Medical Examiner Jonathan L. Arden, who argued that Smith's death was caused by "post-concussion syndrome."

Smith "suffered great pain and mental anguish and mental distress" and "he was otherwise damaged," according to the lawsuit.

Smith shot and killed himself while driving along on the George Washington Memorial Parkway the day after he had been ordered to return to work, according to the Washington Post. He was an officer in DC's Metropolitan Police Department for 12 years, according to the report.

Four police officers who responded to the riot on January 6 died by suicide in the weeks and months following the attack.

According to HuffPost, Smith's lawyer, David P. Weber, who is also a forensic professor at Perdue School of Business in Maryland, read a HuffPost article about the "Sedition Hunters," a group of private citizens working to unmask individuals who participated in the January 6 riot, which was fueled by false claims of election fraud by former President Donald Trump.

Eventually, Weber made contact with a group called Deep State Dogs, which had previously identified multiple individuals involved in the riot, according to the report.

It took the group just over a month to find the evidence they had been searching for, according to HuffPost. They found a video with Smith (they saw his badge number - 4626 - on his helmet) battling with rioters outside the eastern entrance to the House outside the Speaker's Lobby, HuffPost reported.

"We felt we had to do something to honor the memory and family of Officer Smith. It's terrible that the bereaved were left in that situation," Forrest Rogers of the group told HuffPost. "So we turned to the thing we do best: finding bad guys."

They used facial recognition software to identify one man who appeared to engage face-t0-face with Smith before he collapsed, according to the report. They identified the man as David Walls-Kaufman, who wore the same padded motorcycle jacket in a video posted to his YouTube channel.

According to the suit, Kaufman was handed a "cane or crowbar" by a co-defendant in the suit, identified in an amended suit filed Saturday as Taylor F. Taranto of Washington state.

"Kaufman, in turn, violently swung the cane and struck Officer Smith in the face/head," the lawsuit alleges.

Kaufman, who has not faced any criminal charges, did not respond to Insider's request for comment. He is based in the Washington area and runs a chiropractic clinic blocks away from the US Capitol, according to HuffPost.

He told an NBC 6 Miami reporter in January that he was present at the Capitol during the riot.

A spokesperson for MPD told Insider it was aware of the situation.

"We are aware and reviewing the current information at this time," an MPD spokesperson told Insider. "The FBI serves as the primary investigative agency regarding the incidents that occurred on January 6th, and we will continue to support their investigations into this matter."

A spokesperson for the FBI told Insider it had no comment on the case.

Smith's estate is suing both Kaufman and Taranto for assault and battery and wrongful death and is suing Taranto for aiding and abetting. The estate is seeking a $2 million judgment and punitive damages totaling $5 million, according to the lawsuit.

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