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GOP lawmakers silent as fourth officer who responded to Capitol riot dies by suicide

Just three GOP members of Congress have responded publicly to the suicides of officers who protected them on Jan. 6.

By Emily Singer - August 03, 2021
Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell

A fourth law enforcement officer who responded to the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 has died by suicide, nearly seven months since the Donald Trump-supporting mob violently beat police officers who tried to defend the building and those within it from the attackers.

Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department announced on Monday that Officer Gunther Hashida and Officer Kyle DeFreytag both took their own lives. Hashida was found on July 29; DeFreytag took his life on July 10, according to an MPD spokesperson.

Two other officers who responded to the rioting, Capitol Police Officer Howie Liebengood and MPD Officer Jeffrey Smith, died by suicide in the days immediately following the insurrection.

Since the announcement of the most recent deaths, nearly 100 members of Congress have responded on Twitter, according to a count by the American Independent Foundation.

They include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who issued a statement on the death of both MPD officers.

“The Congressional community and Country are heartbroken by the death of Metropolitan Police Department Kyle DeFreytag, a patriot who protected the Capitol on January 6th,” Pelosi said. “The loss of fallen officers who defended our democracy that day is devastating & each life lost is a tragedy.”

Earlier, she tweeted of Hashida, “Officer Hashida was a hero, who risked his life to save our Capitol, the Congressional community and our very Democracy. All Americans are indebted to him for his great valor and patriotism on January 6th & throughout his selfless service. May his life be an inspiration to all to protect our Country & Democracy. And may it be a comfort to his family that so many mourn their loss at this sad time.”

As statements from lawmakers continued to roll in, just three of them were made by Republicans: Reps. Liz Cheney (WY) and Adam Kinzinger (IL), who are both on the select committee to probe the insurrection, and Rep. Peter Meijer (MI), one of just 10 GOP lawmakers who voted to impeach Donald Trump over the attack.

“Sofia & I extend our deepest condolences to the family & loved ones of Officer Hashida,” Kinzinger tweeted Monday afternoon. “May we never forget his service & sacrifice, or the role he played in protecting our democracy on 1/6. This tragedy reminds us the importance of accountability & uncovering the whole truth.”

But as of this writing, the vast majority of GOP lawmakers had yet to respond. Neither Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell nor House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had said anything.

Republicans in Congress have downplayed the violence that responding officers experienced at the hands of the pro-Trump mob that tried to block the transition of power from Trump to Joe Biden after Trump lost the 2020 presidential election.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX) has falsely said that the insurrectionists weren’t armed.

Rep. Andrew Clyde (GA) described the attack as a “normal tourist visit,” a comment he stood by hours after responding officers testified about the brutality they faced from the mob and the physical and emotional wounds they still struggle with.

At a hearing last week of the House select committee investigating the riot, police officers related how angry they were that the people they are sworn to protect would lie about the violence on Jan. 6 and discount the experiences of officers who were there to keep them safe.

“I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them, and the people in this room. But too many are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist. Or that hell actually wasn’t that bad,” MPD officer Michael Fanone said at the hearing on July 27. “The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful!”

Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell said, “For those people who continue to downplay this violent attack on our democracy and officers, I suggest to them to look at the videos and the footage now, because common things were used as weapons, like a baseball bat, a hockey stick, a rebar, a flagpole, including the American flag, pepper spray, bear spray. Those are weapons, no matter if it is a pen. The way they were using these items, it was.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available for free help 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 800-273-8255. You can also chat online with a counselor.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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