Four officers who warded off US Capitol attack died of suicide

Two officers were reported to have taken their own lives in July while two others died days after the January 6 riot.

The January 6 mayhem at the US Capitol led to Trump's second impeachment trial. More than 500 people have been arrested for their roles in the violence [File: Brent Stirton/Getty Images via AFP]

The US District of Columbia’s police department has announced that two more police officers who responded to the January 6 riot at the United States Capitol have died by suicide, bringing to four the number of known suicides by officers on duty at the building that day.

Metropolitan Police Officer Gunther Hashida was found dead in his home on Thursday, department spokesman Hugh Carew said in a statement.

Hashida joined the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in May 2003.

“We are grieving as a department and our thoughts and prayers are with Officer Hashida’s family and friends,” the police spokesman was quoted by news reports as saying.

Another MPD officer who responded to the Capitol on January 6, Kyle DeFreytag, was found dead on July 10, Carew said. DeFreytag’s cause of death was also suicide, Carew said.

He had been with the force since November 2016.

MPD Officer Jeffrey Smith and US Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood also responded to the Capitol riot.

At a closed-door meeting with leaders of Congress in January, Acting Chief of Police Robert Contee III told legislators that Smith took his life “in the aftermath of that battle”.

Meanwhile, Liebengood died by suicide just three days after supporters of Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in an unsuccessful attempt to stop Congress from certifying Democratic President Joe Biden’s election victory.

Four people died on a day of unprecedented violence in the US.

A Capitol police officer who had been attacked by protesters died the following day. More than 100 police officers were injured.

More trouble for Trump

The mayhem led to Trump’s second impeachment trial. More than 500 people have been arrested for their roles in the violence.

During emotional testimony last week, four police officers told a House of Representatives special committee that they were beaten, threatened, taunted with racial insults, and thought they might die as they struggled to defend the Capitol against the mob.

The deadly January 6 attack has prompted Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell to file a civil lawsuit against Trump and Republican Congressman Mo Brooks, accusing them of inciting people.

Four people died on the day of the violence in the US capital, while a police officer died the following day [File: John Minchillo/AP]

Last week, the US Justice Department refused to defend Brooks’s request to grant him immunity by covering him under the Westfall Act, which shields federal employees from being sued for their words or actions in the course of their employment.

Experts said the move appeared to send a message to Trump, ruling out immunity when it warned that inciting an attack on Congress “is not within the scope of employment of a Representative – or any federal employee”.

Donald Ayer, a senior justice department official in the Republican administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush, said: “The government’s filing sends a clear message … No leader in our government is acting within the scope of his employment when he acts to subvert the free and fair election by getting people to go up and riot and interfere.”

“The leaders who perpetrated these travesties are personally responsible for their actions,” he added. A spokesperson for Brooks could not be immediately reached for comment.

Trump is a defendant in two other similar lawsuits, one filed by Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson and another on behalf of two US Capitol police officers.

Trump has so far not publicly requested justice department protection in the case, nor has his lawyer Jesse Binnall said whether he intends to ask the department to take a position.

In a statement, Binnall said: “The Supreme Court has been clear that presidents cannot be sued for actions that are related to their duties of office. Addressing Americans about congressional action is a quintessential presidential duty.”

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, these organisations may be able to help.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters