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January 6th 2021 in Washington D.C.
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Opinion: The Deadly Toll of January 6th

A crowd gathers outside the U.S.. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021. Photo credit Jose Luis Magana, Associated Press

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

SALT LAKE CITY — Four police officers who defended the Capitol and the people inside performing their constitutional duty on January 6th, 2021  have since died by suicide. One or even two, as tragic as they were, and perhaps you wouldn’t have blamed the deaths on what happened that day, but four? I needed some insight on this question, so I went to ABC News Crime and Terrorism Expert Brad Garrett.

“Unfortunately law enforcement is at the highest risk of any profession of taking their own lives,” he began. 

 

“The anger and rage against the police by many communities in this country add to their stress, add to their depression, and even the mixed messaging from politicians about what happened on January 6th when these officers were clearly brutalized … all of that adds to their disillusionment.”

We talked about this topic on A Woman’s View last Sunday, as well. I asked my guests how they looked at the tragedy of these officers’ deaths. Michelle Love-Day, founder of RISE Virtual Academy, said, “Instantly I went to the Vietnam War. I read about how when they were coming home, how they were not well-received and what that does to you.

“We all have trauma. These officers have trauma. For us to downplay what they were feeling, that’s something they were grappling with.”

 

Part of what exacerbated the pain these officers felt is the fact that when they looked out at the mob, many of the faces attacking them were their brothers in blue.  “The number of police officers, active duty and retired, some were federal agents, that has a devastating effect if you’re in law enforcement,” Brad Garret said.

“Think about that. You’re getting brutalized by the very people who are supposedly on the same side of the law as you.”

The Toll January 6th Has Taken

In addition to the Capitol Police, some 850 D.C. Metro officers responded that day to the riot at the Capitol. That’s approximately one quarter of the entire department. Sixty-five were injured in the combat. Seventy Capitol officers were injured. We don’t talk enough about those officers who were injured, some seriously. 

The widow of one of the fallen officers has asked that her husband’s death be ruled “in the line of duty.” Suicides in the military are presumed to be deaths in the line of duty unless proven otherwise, but the same has not been true for police departments.

Erin Smith, widow of Officer Jeffrey Smith, describes what happened physically and mentally to her husband after he was attacked with a metal pole that day. He was never the same until he took his own life nine days later. The least we can do for her and the memory of these officers is to respect their service and sacrifice as we do members of the armed forces. 

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