A Capitol Police officer who died by suicide in the days after the Jan. 6 riot is eligible for line-of-duty benefits, the Department of Justice ruled.
Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood committed suicide on Jan. 9, 2021, after working almost nonstop since the riot. His widow, Serena Liebengood, had been advocating that he be eligible for line-of-duty death benefits, and her request was granted on Monday. Liebengood’s family expressed satisfaction in a statement obtained by CNN.
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“We were recently notified that the Department of Justice officially determined our beloved family member U.S. Capitol Police Officer (USCP) Howie Liebengood’s passing was in the line of duty under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program. The determination is significant, healing, relieving, and we are grateful for it,” the statement said.
Liebengood’s widow wrote in a letter after his suicide how he was made to work nearly round-the-clock shifts in the days following the riot.
“After assisting riot control at the Capitol on January 6th, USCP scheduled Howie to work lengthy shifts in the immediate days following. He was home for very few hours over the course of four days,” she wrote in a letter obtained by CNN. “Although he was severely sleep-deprived, he remained on duty — as he was directed — practically around the clock from January 6th through the 9th. On the evening of the 9th, he took his life at our home.”
Because the officer’s death was ruled to have occurred in the line of duty, Serena Liebengood will receive health and financial benefits. Previously, she would have been cut off from them.
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“Because it’s not classified as ‘in line of duty,’ you don’t receive any of the benefits that a police officer’s family would receive if it was ‘in line of duty.’ The main thing is they’re not recognized. They’re not given the burial that they’re deserved. They’re not given the recognition they deserve,” she told CNN’s Don Lemon.
The only person who was killed during the riot was Air Force veteran Ashli Babbit. Four officers died by suicide in the aftermath of Jan. 6, along with officer Brian Sicknick, whose cause of death was two strokes, the medical examiner concluded.