The Biden administration’s Department of Justice is recognizing the death of a Capitol Police officer who took his own life in the days following the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol incursion as a casualty “in the line of duty.”
The family of Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood said he died by suicide on Jan. 9, 2021, just days after the disturbance at the seat of the federal government in Washington.
Nearly two years later, the Justice Department made the “line of duty” determination on Monday, according to a statement from Liebengood’s family provided to CNN.
Liebengood’s survivors have sought the determination as a means for the family to secure service-connected benefits in the aftermath of his untimely death.
“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 Liebengood family said in a statement, according to CNN.
“The determination is significant, healing, relieving, and we are grateful for it.”
In a letter to Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton of Virginia following his death, his widow, Serena Liebengood, indicated that stressful work conditions following the Jan. 6 incursion might have led to his suicide.
“After assisting riot control at the Capitol on January 6th, USCP scheduled Howie to work lengthy shifts in the immediate days following,” she wrote, according to WJLA-TV in Washington.
“He was home for very few hours over the course of four days,” Liebengood said.
“Although he was severely sleep-deprived, he remained on duty — as he was directed — practically around the clock from January 6th through the 9th,” she wrote.
“On the evening of the 9th, he took his life at our home.”
“This does not change the fact Officer Sicknick died in the line of duty, courageously defending Congress and the Capitol,” the department said in an April 2021 news release.
A D.C metropolitan police officer who took his own life less than two weeks after the Capitol incursion was also found to have died in the line of duty, according to CBS News.
The specific casualty count stemming from Jan. 6 varies under different determinations of who counts.
One person directly killed during the Capitol incursion was Ashli Babbit, an unarmed Air Force veteran who was shot by a Capitol Police officer.
The shooting of Babbit was deemed lawful by the agency.
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