Two police officers who were on duty when a violent mob attacked the Capitol building earlier this month have since died by suicide.
DC Police Officer Jeffrey Smith, a 12-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department, died on January 15, less than two weeks after the attack, Chief Robert J. Contee III confirmed at a closed-door briefing yesterday, January 27.
Smith’s death occurred less than a week after Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood was also found dead by suicide just three days after the Capitol attack. Liebengood, the son of a former high-ranking Senate aide, had served on the force for 15 years. Both were among several hundred officers attacked by violent extremists as they attempted to protect lawmakers and other staff members inside the Capitol building during the January 6 riot.
Neither department has officially confirmed whether the deaths were linked to the riot, however while speaking to the House Appropriations Committee earlier this week, Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman referenced the mental health issues facing officers who attempted to fend off attackers during the riots.
In a letter to committee members, she said that several officers on-duty during the riot had since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Capitol Police Officers’ Union revealed this week that 140 of their officers were injured in the attacks, with some suffering ‘brain injuries’ and one officer likely to lose an eye. One police officer, Brian Sicknick, died in hospital day after the riot after being struck with a fire extinguisher.
Video footage published in the days and weeks following the riot has shown officers being dragged down steps, crushed in a doorway and beaten with metal poles by members of the thousands-strong mob, some of whom carried Blue Lives Matter flags – expressing support for law enforcement – while storming the building.
The news comes as the Capitol Police Officers’ Union heavily criticised law enforcement leadership for their response to the attack. In a statement published on Wednesday, Capitol Police union chairman called the lack of preparedness ‘inexcusable’ and ‘unconscionable,’ saying ‘the officers are angry, and I don’t blame them…the entire executive team failed us, and they must be held accountable. Their inaction cost lives’.
Acting Chief Pittman, who was appointed following the resignation of Chief Stephen Sund after the attack, told the House Appropriations Committee that the force’s leadership ‘knew that militia groups and white supremacist organisations would be attending…we knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target’.
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Topics: News, Capitol Riots, Now, US, US Capitol Police, US Capitol riot, Washington DC