The widow of Metropolitan Police Officer Jeffrey Smith has won a months-long fight to have her husband’s death declared in the line of duty, following his suicide days after the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.
According to a letter obtained exclusively by CNN, the District of Columbia’s Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board has found that Smith “sustained a personal injury on January 6, 2021, while performing his duties and that his injury was the sole and direct cause of his death. ”
The ruling makes his family eligible to receive benefits.
The board issued an order to Erin Smith on Wednesday night vacating the previous decision to deny her survivor’s benefits, granting her an annuity equal to her late husband’s pay.
Erin Smith had petitioned the Retirement and Relief Board last year to declare her husband’s suicide a line-of-duty death.
Her attorney, David P. Weber, produced video evidence for the board that showed Jeffrey Smith being assaulted by the mob and hit in the head with a metal pole on January 6. He died nine days later, after he shot himself in the head while driving to work from his home in Virginia. It was supposed to be his first day back after seeking medical attention for the injuries and mental trauma he suffered on January 6.
“This was a forensic death investigation from the beginning,” said Weber, who is also a forensic accounting professor at Salisbury University in Maryland. “At the beginning, we did not know what happened to Officer Smith. We took the evidence from the autopsy, expert witnesses, body camera footage and federal subpoenas to prove that Jeff suffered a traumatic brain injury on January 6. ”
Weber told CNN last year that “while the bullet may have been the actual cause of death, the chain of events was set in motion January 6 and the chain was not broken.”
Smith’s family now has confirmation from the Retirement and Relief Board that his death was caused by the injuries he had sustained on January 6. The order will also entitle Smith’s widow to health benefits, according to Weber.
There is no known previous case, Weber said, in which the suicide of a Metropolitan Police officer has been declared a line-of-duty death.
“Officer Smith’s widow is overwhelmed, because she knows this is going to help so many future families,” Weber said. “Erin Smith calls for her husband to now be entitled to the ceremony and honor to which a fallen hero and his family is entitled.”
This story has been updated with additional details Wednesday.