By JENNIFER SMITH and JAMES GORDON FOR DAILYMAIL.COM
August 3, 2021
A fourth police officer who clashed with Capitol rioters on January 6 has killed himself – putting the suicide rate among Capitol and DC cops at six times that of the normal rate among American cops.
Kyle DeFreytag, 26, died on July 10. He had responded to the Capitol insurrection on January 6th and had worked the later shift on that day. DeFreytag had been positioned outside the Capitol.
DeFreytag had been a Metropolitan Police Department officer for five years and worked in the city’s fifth district. On January 6, he worked the late shift and was tasked with enforcing the city’s curfew as people rioted and protested through the night.
Three others who responded to the Capitol that day have also killed themselves; Howard Liebengood, 51, Jeffrey Smith, 35, and Gunther Hashida, 43.
The suicide rate among police is higher than the general population with 17 of every 100,000 cops in America killing themselves, a rate of 0.01 percent.
The four Capitol officers’ deaths represents a suicide rate of 0.06 – six times as many.
It leads to fears of the long-term psychological effects the riot might have had on them and questions of whether or not any other factors may have been at play.
Most of the men’s families have not laid the blame squarely with what happened on January 6 and they have been quiet publicly, aside from the widow of Jeffrey Smith, who said previously that he slipped into a deep depression after the incident and ‘wasn’t the same.’
He killed himself on January 14, shooting himself in his Ford Mustang while on his way to the overnight shift.
Howard Liebengood was the first officer to take his life after the riot. He had worked in the Senate and his loved ones said afterwards it was his favorite posting. He was survived by his wife and his siblings.
In a letter that was obtained by CBS earlier this year, his widow Serena said his death was a direct result of the riot.
She wants the United States Capitol Police to reclassify his death to a line of duty death, which would give her more financial benefits.
‘What must not be lost in all of this is my beloved husband died as the result his dedication to the USCP and the sacrifices he made to his well-being on January 6 and the ensuing days, just as assuredly as if he had been slain on the Capitol steps.
‘Recognition of the cause of his death, much like the critical examination of the riot itself, will remain central to how we make right those tragedies and help avoid their repetition.’
‘There is no way to convey what our family is going through, as we struggle to simply function in our grief’.
‘Although Howie was severely sleep-deprived, he remained on duty — as he was directed — practically around the clock from January 6th through the 9th. On the evening of the 9th, he took his life at our home.’
‘The USCP must be held accountable for its actions and structural reforms instituted; and the mental and emotional well-being of these officers can no longer be overlooked or taken for granted.’
It is not known where he killed himself or how.
Rep. Wexton, who was the recipient of the letter from his widow, told CBS that she will push to ensure reforms are made by the USCP.
‘We know that if not for the events of January 6, Officer Howie Liebengood would still be with us today,’ she stated.
‘His death was a direct result of his defending the U.S. Capitol, an institution that he was devoted to and loved. I will continue to fight for proper recognition for Howie and his family.’
Liebengood was the son of former top Senate aide Howard S Liebengood, who served as a Sergeant of Arms at the Capitol from 1981 to 1983 and died of a heart attack aged 62 in 2005.
At the time, the USCP made no suggestion that the younger Liebengood’s death had anything to do with the riots at the Capitol.
The next suicide to be reported was that of Jeffrey Smith. Smith killed himself two weeks after the riot, where he’d been hit in the head with a pole.
He was on his way to work and shot himself in his Ford Mustang. It’s unclear if he used his service weapon or not.
On the day of January 6, he texted his wife Erin as the protesters rushed the building, saying: ‘London has fallen.’
It was a reference to a movie with that name which is about an assassination plot against British politicians. He also sent her a selfie which showed him in full riot gear, with a gas mask on, ready to take on the rioters.
Erin, in an interview with The Washington Post afterwards, said he behaved differently in the two weeks afterwards. He refused to leave their home, even to walk their dog, and would not watch TV.
She said he seemed to be in pain and had trouble turning his head.
‘He wasn’t the same Jeff that left on the 6th. . . . I just tried to comfort him and let him know that I loved him. I told him I’d be there if he needed anything, that no matter what, we’ll get through it. I tried to do the best I could,’ she said.
Like Liebengood’s widow, she has petitioned the Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board to rule his death as in the line of duty too.
‘When my husband left for work that day, he was the Jeff that I knew,. When he returned after experiencing the event, being hit in the head, he was a completely different person.
‘I do believe if he did not go to work that day, he would be here and we would not be having this conversation,’ she said.
Erin added that at a medical appointment for his injuries, Jeffrey was only seen for roughly 10 minutes.
‘He told me it was chaos,’ Erin said of the clinic. ‘There were so many people there.’ Police would not comment on the visit, citing privacy laws.
Officer Gunther Rashida was found dead at home on July 29.
He had worked for the DC Metropolitan Police since 2003 and on January 6, was in the Emergency Response Team within the Special Operations Division.
It’s unclear how he killed himself but DC Metro Police confirmed his death on Monday.
His family also launched a GoFundMe page where they asked for donations to pay for his funeral.
The GoFundMe page has raised more than $90,000 since yesterday.
In its description, the family said: ‘In his work as an officer with the DC Metropolitan Police Department, he worked to serve and protect the public. He was a devoted and loving husband and father. This fund will help support his memorial service and his family in the loss of his love and guidance.’
A relative for Defreytag is yet to speak publicly about his death.