Politics

White House mourns recent suicides among officers who responded to Capitol insurrection: ‘A sad reminder’ of January 6 attack

The Metropolitan Police Department publicly disclosed this week that Officer Gunther Hashida was found deceased in his residence on July 29 and Kyle DeFreytag was found dead on July 10. Both were deaths by suicide.

“I wanted to take a moment to recognize the passing of Metropolitan Police Officer Gunther Hashida and Officer Kyle DeFreytag — two officers who bravely defended the Capitol both during and after the insurrection on January 6,” Psaki said at the start of Tuesday’s White House press briefing. “Their deaths are a sad reminder of that shameful day in our country’s history, and of the physical and mental scars it left the officers who risked their lives to protect our Capitol and democracy.”

There have now been four known suicides by officers who responded to the Capitol during the attack, and three known suicides by a DC officer specifically.

Psaki added that the officers’ recent passing “reminds us of the remarkable courage of the men and women of law enforcement who serve with honor and leave home each day not knowing what risks they may face but are determined to protect their communities.”

She also mentioned the recent congressional testimonies made by officers who responded to the insurrection as the Capitol building earlier this year, saying that “we heard firsthand last week from some of those who served on that day and their testimony reaffirmed the incredible bravery they showed in the worst possible circumstances.”

“We’re indebted to their services and our thoughts go out to the friends, family and loved ones of the two officers,” Psaki added.

One of the officers who testified, DC Metropolitan Police officer Michael Fanone, told CNN’s Don Lemon on “Don Lemon Tonight” Tuesday evening: “We need to normalize the conversation about folks struggling with trauma and mental health issues. We need to get rid of this stigma that people who struggle with those issues are weak.”

“The strongest people that I have ever known in my life have grappled with trauma and with the mental health difficulties that go along with having survived trauma,” he said.

The Justice Department has charged more than 550 people in connection with the insurrection, according to CNN’s latest tally, and the attack is at the center of a high-profile House select committee investigation.

Hashida had joined the Metropolitan Police Department in 2003 and DeFreytag had been with the department since November 2016.

Metropolitan Police Officer Jeffrey Smith, a 12-year veteran of the force, and US Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood, a 16-year Capitol Police veteran, also responded to the insurrection and later died by suicide. A recent Senate report into the security failures of the day lists both Smith and Liebengood among those who “ultimately lost their lives” following the attack.

This story has been updated with additional information Tuesday.

CNN’s Whitney Wild, Paul LeBlanc and Rashard Rose contributed to this report.

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