The suicide death of a U.S. Capitol Police officer days after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot has been ruled a line of duty death, entitling his family to financial benefits.
Howard Liebengood was 51 years old and a 15-year veteran of the USCP. He is one of four officers who took their own lives after responding to the events at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Liebengood's family has been fighting to have his death considered in the line of duty.
The death benefit claim made by his family was the first to be approved and awarded under the new Public Safety Officer Support Act.
"While no amount of money will bring Howie back to his family, their successful claim is an important step in acknowledging that law enforcement suicides are service-connected and should be seen for what they are—line of duty deaths," says Patrick Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police. "Howie’s family will always be part of our family."
The Liebengood family issued the following statement:
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.
We hope the changes to the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program, which allowed Howie to receive this designation, will serve as a model for other entities that offer similar benefits and recognition. This is an important step in a longer effort to change outdated processes and attitudes. We also hope that this helps other families who have felt the pain of losing a loved one to suicide.
Anyone who knew Howie knew he was kind-hearted and fiercely loyal. We all desperately miss his one-of-a-kind smile and his warm, gentle temperament, but we take some solace in knowing that Howie officially has received this well-deserved honor.
We appreciate the opportunities we’ve had to meet with the Department of Justice and others before this decision. We are grateful for the assistance of many stakeholders, including the Fraternal Order of Police and Blue H.E.L.P., who’ve stood alongside us and advocated on behalf of families like ours. We also applaud the leadership of Congressman Trone, Congressman Reschenthaler, Senator Duckworth, Senator Cornyn, Howie’s Senator Kaine and other Members of Congress on this issue.
We look forward to continuing to reduce the stigma around mental health and suicide for public safety officers -- who make sacrifices for us all.