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Wife of Jan. 6 officer who died after riot feels duty to represent him at hearings

Jeffrey Smith died by suicide shortly after the insurrection. Erin Smith said she wants her husband's legacy to be that he “saved democracy on Jan. 6.”

WASHINGTON — The widow of an officer who died by suicide just days after last year's insurrection said Thursday she feels compelled to represent him at the Jan. 6 committee hearings.

Erin Smith, who was married to Washington, D.C., Police Officer Jeffrey Smith, is not scheduled to testify as a witness, but she said she wants to be a voice for her late husband.

“I think they need to know what an officer went through that’s no longer here with us,” Smith told NBC News' Hallie Jackson. “They’ve heard from ones that are still here, and the ones who aren’t have a story, as well.”

Smith said she is willing to testify before the House committee at a future hearing, and her attorney David P. Weber said there have been discussions with the panel about her potential testimony. She is attending the committee's first hearing on Thursday night.

Jeffrey Smith died by suicide nine days after the Capitol attack. In March, his death was found to have been in the line of duty, with a board finding the injuries he sustained that day were the “sole and direct cause” of his death.

The past 24 hours have been emotional for his widow. Wednesday night, one of the men Smith sued in connection with her husband's death was arrested by the FBI. David Walls-Kaufman, a Washington chiropractor, faces four misdemeanor charges.

Video shows Walls-Kaufman with his hand on Smith's baton, and Smith is visibly shaken up after the encounter. His body camera video shows he was also assaulted when he was hit with a flying metal pole later in the evening. A law enforcement official said the FBI is still working to find the person who threw the pole.

Erin Smith said it was quite stressful to listen to Walls-Kaufman’s court appearance Thursday ahead of the committee's first hearing. She said she hopes the committee finds the truth of what happened on Jan. 6, 2021.

“At the end of the day, things don’t happen without somebody being responsible,” Smith said. “I think the truth will come out.”

Smith described her late husband as a loving and funny man who went through fundamental changes as a result of the injuries he sustained on Jan. 6. A former Washington chief medical examiner hired by Smith's estate found “a direct cause and effect relationship between the line of duty work trauma on Jan. 6 and Jeffrey Smith’s death” and that Smith had “no prior history of depression, mental health issues or mental health treatment.”

Smith said she hoped that his legacy would be that he "saved democracy on Jan. 6 and that he was a part of a group of men and women that went in there not knowing what they were going to face, and they did their job, and they came out on the other side."