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DC Officer’s Family Sues Man It Says Assaulted Him Jan. 6, Prompting His Suicide

DC Officer’s Family Sues Man It Says Assaulted Him Jan. 6, Prompting His Suicide

Jeffrey Smith was a 12-year veteran law enforcement officer and was one of hundreds of Metropolitan Police Department officers who deployed on Jan. 6 to defend the Capitol from the violent, insurrectionist mob who stormed the building. He was hit in the head with a metal pole during the melee. Afterward his wife said, he seemed to slip into a deep depression.

Eight days after the riot he was ordered back to work but he never made it. Smith pulled his car over on the George Washington Parkway on the way to his shift and shot himself with his service weapon. He would become the second officer to take his own life in the wake of the riot.

On Friday Smith’s family filed a lawsuit against the man who they have identified as the person who struck Smith in the head, allegedly contributing to his death.

The lawsuit includes a report from a doctor who evaluated the case for Smith’s estate saying a traumatic brain injury led the officer to take his own life. The family’s attorney, David Weber, told The Washington Post he turned the name of the potential attacker over to D.C. police, which a department spokesman confirmed.

Dustin Sternbeck, a police department spokesperson, said the agency is “reviewing the information.” A spokeswoman for the FBI, which is leading the investigation into the assault on the Capitol, declined to comment to WaPo.

The man identified, reached Friday, declined to comment and would not say if he had been to the Capitol on Jan. 6. Social media accounts that appear to be connected to him share conspiracy theories about the election and COVID-19 vaccinations.

Smith’s widow, Erin, has petitioned the Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board to designate her husband’s suicide as a death in the line of duty, a designation that comes with vastly greater financial benefits and, she says, more dignity.

Unlike in the military, however, which commonly awards benefits to families of soldiers who take their own lives, police suicides are not considered line-of-duty deaths — in fact, the law generally forbids that designation. The families of officers who kill themselves say the rules represent an outdated approach that recognizes the physical dangers of policing but not the mental ones.A blow to Officer Jeffrey Smith’s head captured on video shows the 12-year veteran being knocked to the ground, apparently unconscious, according to a lawsuit Smith’s family filed Friday against the alleged attacker.

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The HuffPost first reported the sleuthing group Deep State Dogs, whose members scour the Internet trying to identify people involved in the riot, had identified a person possibly involved in the attack on Smith with the help computer images.

Most of that time went toward finding Smith in the crowd, he said, which they did for the first time on Thursday. After that, he said, they quickly identified the man with the help of open-sourced facial recognition software and reviews of photos and videos in which “he wore a distinctive jacket.”

Weber’s law firm filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington claiming wrongful death and assault and battery against one named person and one identified as John Doe. Weber, who is also a forensics professor at Salisbury University in Maryland, said investigators should have worked harder on Smith’s case.

“It shouldn’t take a forensics professor on summer break to do the government’s work,” he said.

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