Capitol police officer’s suicide after Jan. 6 attack ruled a line-of-duty death, Justice Department says

The Justice Department has ruled that the death of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Howard “Howie” Liebengood, who took his own life after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, will be recognized as occurring in the line of duty, opening new family benefits.

Liebengood was a 15-year veteran of the Capitol Police when took his own life a few days after the attack on January 6, 2021, aged 51.

“Determination is important, it’s healing, it’s comforting, and we’re grateful for it,” the Liebengood family said in a statement obtained by CBS News on Monday. “Anyone who knew Howie knew that he was kind-hearted and very loyal. We all miss his unique smile and warm, kind disposition, but we take comfort in knowing that Howie officially received this…he deserved the honor.”

The designation comes after President Biden signed the law in August Public Safety Officer Support Actwhich extends the US Public Safety Officers Benefit Program for disability and death benefits to families of officers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or kill themselves in the line of duty.

A U.S. Capitol Police spokesman said in a statement Monday that the agency is “pleased that the Department of Justice’s Public Safety Employee Benefit Program has determined that the death of our late friend and colleague, Howie Liebengood, was a line-of-duty death.”

Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood
FILE — Several children are fingerprinted by Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood on April 24, 2008.

Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images

Liebengood is one of the four officers who responded to the January 6 attack, who died in an apparent suicide. Another of the four, DC Police Officer Jeffrey Smith, was was also recognized in March from the District of Columbia as he dies in the line of duty.

Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, a sponsor of Mr. Biden’s legislation, said in a statement that Liebengood was “often one of the first people I saw on Capitol Hill every day.”

“It was clear that being a police officer in the US Capitol was more than a job to him – he was a man who dedicated his life to serving others and spent 15 years defending the halls of democracy,” his statement said.

The Department of Justice has charged more than 700 people with crimes related to the Capitol uprising, according to a CBS News count.

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or a suicidal crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). For more information about mental health care resources and support, you can contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. ET, at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email [email protected]

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