Police say second officer has died by suicide in aftermath of Capitol riots

Acting DC Metropolitan Police Department chief revealed veteran officer died by suicide in testimony to the House on Tuesday

On Tuesday, the acting police chief of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department confirmed that a second officer, who was a 12-year veteran on the force, had died by suicide after responding to the deadly U.S. Capitol riots.

While giving testimony to the House Appropriations Committee, Acting Chief Robert J. Contee explained what he considered to be a “tepid response” from the Army due to concerns about optics as the violent insurrection emerged Jan. 6. That concern led to fewer boots on the ground from the D.C. National Guard, leaving hundreds of MPD officers to take on the throngs of rioters who attacked officers and sieged the legislative chambers.

Contee identified Jeffery Smith as an officer among those who battled the riots that day. Smith died by suicide after the riots, Contee told the committee. The officer was a 12-year veteran of the department who was assigned to patrol the second district, a spokesperson told Fox News. Contee also identified Howard Liebengood, 51, a Capitol Police officer, as the first officer who died by suicide since responding to the Capitol siege. Liebengood died Jan. 9.

Riot police clear the hallway inside the Capitol on Jan. 6. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

Five people died as a direct result of the rebellious melee at the Capitol earlier this month, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died a day after the riot from injuries sustained while “physically engaging” with rioters.

“We honor the service and sacrifices of Officers Brian Sicknick, Howard Liebengood and Jeffery Smith, and offer condolences to all the grieving families,” Contee said Tuesday.

According to his testimony, 65 MPD members sustained injuries documented in reports, but many more “did not even bother to report” additional injuries from assaults that included scratches, bruises and burning eyes from bear mace.

Contee recounted how officers, both MPD and Capitol, spent at least seven hours battling the riots and attempting to protect both houses of Congress on Jan. 6. While the police forces went into action, Contee said the Department of the Army sought to discuss next steps in the midst of the madness.

“I was stunned at the tepid response from Department of the Army, which was reluctant to send the D.C. National Guard to the Capitol,” Contee told members of Congress on Tuesday.

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“While I certainly understand the importance of both planning and public perception — the factors cited by the staff on the call — these issues become secondary when you are watching your employees, vastly outnumbered by a mob, being physically assaulted. I was able to quickly deploy my force and issue directives to them while they were in the field, and I was honestly shocked that the National Guard could not — or would not — do the same.”

Contee, who also testified that his department spent nearly $8.8 million during the week of the insurrection, said the efforts to handle the mobs on that day were affected by how the Army responded.

“The Army staff responded that they were not refusing to send them but wanted to know the plan and did not like the optics of boots on the ground at the Capitol,” he testified, according to Fox News.