New right-wing conspiracy: Jan. 6 officer suicides appear "suspicious"

A variety of right-wing voices are "asking questions" about a spate of suicides among Jan. 6 first responders

Published August 4, 2021 8:51PM (EDT)

Police officers attempt to push back a pro-Trump mob trying to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
Police officers attempt to push back a pro-Trump mob trying to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

A new conspiracy is spreading in right-wing circles online, claiming that a spate of suicides within the police corps who responded to the Jan. 6 insurrection appear "suspicious," and may be part of a murky liberal plot with goals that remain unclear.

At least four officers who responded to the riot that day have since committed suicide, according to statements from the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and Capitol Police. 

Howard Liebengood, a 15-year veteran of the Capitol Police, was the first to die by suicide just three days after the Capitol attack, the department said. D.C. Officer Jeffrey Smith also took his own life within a month of the attack.

Two more names were added to that total Monday: Metro Police Officers Gunther Hashida and Kyle deFreytag, according to the department. 

Not much information about the men's deaths were shared due to the nature of their passing, but that didn't stop far-right figures from speculating wildly as to the circumstances of their deaths.

Former Trump lawyer and current Newsmax contributor Jenna Ellis became the most prominent booster of the conspiracy Wednesday, tweeting out to her nearly 900,000 followers: "Anyone else find these suicides really suspicious?"

Right-wing site Breitbart headlined its Tuesday story on the latest death: "Mystery Surrounds Latest Police Suicides Linked to January 6: Four Officers Now Dead."

Anti-Muslim activist and failed Florida GOP House candidate Laura Loomer even called Tuesday for Congressional Republicans to open an investigation into the matter.

"Nobody believes 4 of these officers committed suicide," she wrote on Gab. "Republicans are more focused on 'optics' instead of making bold and brave statements, but the American people see this for what it is. Evil and sinister."

Simple searches on Twitter and Facebook reveal hundreds of similar posts by conservatives on both platforms.

More than 100 officers were injured while attempting to control the rioters that breached the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6. 

Last week, several officers delivered bracing testimony on their experiences that day to a House select committee investigating the insurrection.

"I was electrocuted again and again and again with a Taser," said Metro Police Officer Michael Fanone, who suffered both a heart attack and a traumatic brain injury from the attack. "I'm sure I was screaming, but I don't think I could even hear my own voice."

Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn also testified that he withstood hours of racist abuse at the hands of the pro-Trump mob, which called him the N-word repeatedly. He later reported crying after returning home following the attack, asking himself, "Is this America?"

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

By Brett Bachman

Brett Bachman was the Nights/Weekend Editor at Salon.

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