The Department of Justice has ruled that the police officer who died by suicide following the Capitol riots in January 2021 died in the line of duty.
Metropolitan Police Department officer Jeffrey Smith took his own life following the mass protest and riots in support of former President Trump.
“When my husband died, I was denied the line-of-duty benefits that he deserved,” widow Erin Smith told The Hill on Friday.
“But I knew from the beginning that Jeffrey died in the line of duty from the injuries he suffered on Janary 6,” she continued.
Jeffrey Smith was a 12-year veteran of the force assigned to patrol in the 2nd District and assisted Capitol Police during the riots, where he was hit in the head with a metal pole by protestors. Erin said he then began to behave unlike himself and slipped into a depressive state.
He killed himself with a handgun on January 15, the day he was set to return to duty. He was 35 years old.
“What we learned was that Jeffrey’s injuries clearly caused his death,” Erin told the outlet. “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.”
Jeffrey Smith’s loved ones are the first beneficiaries of President Biden’s Public Safety Officer Support Act, which was signed into law exactly one year before the Department of Justice made its ruling on Smith.
The legislation, championed by Erin Smith following her husband’s death, “provides death, disability, and education benefits to public safety officers and survivors of public safety officers who die or become disabled as a direct and proximate result of a personal injury in the line of duty.”
“The act specifies that post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, or trauma and stress-related disorders suffered by a public safety officer following an exposure to a traumatic event while on duty constitutes a personal injury in the line of duty if exposure to the traumatic event was a substantial factor in the disorder,” the text of the legislation reads.
David Weber, an attorney for the Smith family, is seeking dispensation to have Jeffrey interred at Arlington National Cemetery.
During the height of the incident on January 6, approximately 850 Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) members were at the Capitol to assist U.S. Capitol Police, and by the day’s end, an additional estimate of 250 MPD members had been in the area to directly support the response and aftermath, Contee said.
Fox News Digital’s Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.