The fall-out from the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol continues. A second police officer who responded to the attack has died by suicide, and the union head representing Capitol Police officers have called out the force’s leadership for failing to adequately prepare officers for the violence that ensued during the insurrection.
NPR reports that chair of the union, Gus Papathanasiou, issued a statement Wednesday, saying the police force’s top brass failed officers. His remarks came after acting Chief Yogananda Pittman told Congress earlier this week that Capitol Police knew militia groups and white supremacists were coming to the Capitol with firearms during Congress’ vote to certify President Biden’s election win, and that they also knew there was “a strong potential for violence” with Congress as the target.
Former Capitol Police chief Steven Sund resigned earlier this month after saying his force had prepared for “First Amendment activities,” but Pittman’s testimony complicates that narrative—unless the force had been considering the serious threats of white supremacist violence as just a form of free speech.
Pittman apologized on behalf of her department for what she described as their “failings” on Jan. 6, while adding that the former chief had asked the Capitol Police Board on Jan. 4 to declare a state of emergency and authorize a request for National Guard backup but that these requests were denied.
Papathanasiou, meanwhile, called it “unconscionable” that police leaders knew about the extent of the threat facing the nation’s capital beforehand without better preparing the outnumbered Capitol officers who ended up being battered by the insurrectionists on Jan. 6. He is calling for new leadership for the Capitol Police.
“The entire executive team failed us, and they must be held accountable. Their inaction cost lives,” he said. “Between USCP and our colleagues at the Metropolitan Police Department, we have almost 140 officers injured. I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack who have sustained brain injuries. One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs. One officer is going to lose his eye, and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake.”
Papathanasiou also made reference to Capitol Officer Brian Sicknick, who was killed as a result of the insurrection, and an officer who died by suicide.
Now there is news that a second officer who responded to the violence at the Capitol has died by suicide. On Wednesday, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee announced the death of Jeffrey Smith, an officer from the MPD department who he said was injured at the Capitol attack.
“A couple of days after that, the officer, he took his life,” Contee said at a press conference, reports WLJA news. “Our condolences go to the Smith family, his entire family, for such a tragic loss.”