Suicide of Capitol police officer after Jan. 6 attack designated as dead in the line of duty, Justice Department says

The Justice Department has determined that the death of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Howard “Howie” Liebengood, who committed suicide following the Jan. 6 Capitol uprising, will be recognized as having occurred in the in the performance of his duties – opening up new conditions of eligibility for benefits for his family.

Liebengood was a 15-year veteran of the Capitol Police when he committed suicide a few days after the attack of January 6, 2021, at the age of 51.

“Determination is important, healing, relieving, and we are grateful for that,” the Liebengood family said in a statement obtained by CBS News Monday. “Anyone who knew Howie knew he was generous and fiercely loyal. We all miss his one-of-a-kind smile and warm, gentle demeanor, but we are comforted to know that Howie has officially received this well-deserved honor. .”

The designation comes after President Biden in August signed the law into law. Public Safety Officers Support Actwhich extends the United States Public Safety Officers Disability and Death Benefit Program to the families of officers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or who die by suicide in the line of duty.

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

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 of apparent suicide. Another of the four, DC police officer Jeffrey Smith, was also recognized in March by the District of Columbia as dying in the line of duty.

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

“It was clear that being a United States Capitol Police Officer was more than a job for him – he was a man who dedicated his life to serving others and spent 15 years defending the halls of democracy,” the statement read.

The Department of Justice accused more than 700 people with crimes related to the Capitol insurgency, according to a tally by CBS News.

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

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