Friday, September 22, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Friday, September 22, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Widow of officer who died by suicide after Capitol insurrection sues pair of rioters

Officer Jeffrey Smith, a veteran patrolman of 12 years, died by suicide the week after he was struck in the face by a metal bar while responding to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. His wife says he sank into a deep depression after the insurrection.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The widow of Jeffrey Smith, a D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer who later died by suicide, filed a federal lawsuit Friday against the two men she says assaulted her late husband during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

While being escorted out of the Capitol by police officers, an unidentified individual in video footage allegedly handed David Kaufman, one of the rioters, a metal rod that looked like a cane or a crowbar. 

Kaufman then violently swung the weapon and struck Jeffrey Smith in the face when his face shield was up, giving him a severe concussion and neck injuries, according to Friday's lawsuit.

“It appears that Kaufman and John Doe specifically and maliciously targeted Officer Smith because his visor was in the upright position, making him vulnerable to this brutal and vicious attack,” the complaint states.

Erin Smith, the officer’s wife, said that after Jan. 6, her husband seemed to slip into a deep depression, becoming quiet and moody — while still in pain from the assault. 

The next week, Jeffrey Smith was ordered back to work, but shot himself with his service weapon on the way to his shift. 

The cause of death was severe depression and brain injury, according to the lawsuit.

“The effects of postconcussive syndrome, in turn, includes health maladies such as severe depression and suicide,” the complaint states. “In other words, but for the concussion of Officer Smith at the hands of the defendants, Officer Smith would be alive today. He was killed in the line of duty by these defendants.”

Smith has been petitioning the Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board to declare her husband’s suicide as a line-of-duty death, so that he can receive recognition for his sacrifice and she can receive health and financial benefits. 

But, unlike the military, police suicides aren’t considered line-of-duty death — so the odds are likely against Smith. 

“It’s time for the mayor, the Metropolitan Police Department, the D.C. government, and other departments and governments around the country to recognize that silent injuries, these deaths, even when at a police officer’s own hand, are a direct result of the job they have been doing,” Smith wrote in a USA Today op-ed last week. “Their deaths are in the line of duty.”

Jeffrey Smith is one of four officers who have taken their lives in the aftermath of the insurrection. 

Smith seeks $2 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. 

Follow Samantha Hawkins on Twitter

Categories / Government, National, Personal Injury, Politics

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.