DOJ: Suicide of police officer after Jan. 6 was line of duty death
The Justice Department (DOJ) has ruled the suicide of a police officer in the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot on the Capitol, a death in the line of duty.
Erin Smith, the widow of former Metropolitan Police Department officer Jeffrey Smith, was informed of DOJ’s decision on Thursday. She will now be eligible to receive federal benefits as a result, her lawyer confirmed to The Hill on Friday.
Dr. David Weber, Smith’s attoreny, said she was given the news exactly a year after President Biden signed the Public Safety Officer Support Act. The law extended death, disability and education benefits under the Public Safety Officers Benefits (PSOB) program — a program she has advocated for since her husband’s death — to public safety officers and survivors of public safety officers who suffer or suffered stress-related disorders stemming from a traumatic experience while on duty.
Erin’s application was the first to be filed under this new law, Weber said in his statement to The Hill.
“When my husband died, I was denied the line of duty benefits that he deserved,” Erin said in a statement. “But I knew from the beginning that Jeffrey died in the line of duty from the injuries he suffered on January 6th.”
Smith said she did not want any future widow or widower to go through a similar experience and described her need to understand what happened to her husband after the insurrection.
“What we learned was that Jeffrey’s injuries clearly caused his death,” Erin said “Right then, I decided that we needed to seek the line of duty death benefits, and we needed to change the law to allow such claims.”
Since her husband’s death, Smith fought for his death to be recognized as dying “in the line of duty,” with hopes officials will recognize “silent injuries” like suicides, as casualties in the line of duty for other first responders.
Weber said while he and Smith are pleased with the decision, he is calling on the president and the secretary of the Army to allow Jeffrey Smith to be inurned at Arlington National Cemetery, after he was initially denied the official honor guard.
The Hill has reached out to DOJ’s Public Safety Officers’ Benefit Office for comment.