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Widow of Capitol officer who died by suicide to get line-of-duty benefits

Officer Howard Liebengood, who graduated from Purdue in 1991, died by suicide three days after the Capitol insurrection.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
The U.S. Capitol is seen in early morning light in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Justice determined the U.S. Capitol Police officer who took his own life following the Capitol insurrection died in the line of duty.

Officer Howard Liebengood died by suicide Jan. 9, 2021.

His widow, Serena Liebengood, has been calling for Howard's death to be classified as "in the line of duty" so she could continue to receive health and financial benefits.

In an open letter, Serena wrote that Howard was ordered to work "practically around the clock" for three days after the attack. 

She said he was "severely sleep-deprived" leading up to Jan. 9.

Howard, 51, earned a degree in history from Purdue University and was a 1991 graduate, according to a university spokesperson.

Following Howard's death, Sen. Todd Young tweeted

"I am deeply saddened by the death of @CapitolPolice Officer Howie Liebengood. He was a @LifeatPurdue graduate, an avid auto racing & Indy 500 fan, and a friend to all who knew him. My deepest condolences are with his family, friends, and colleagues."

According to CBS News, Liebengood's father, Howard Liebengood Sr., served as the Senate sergeant-at-arms from 1981 until 1983.

"We are reeling from the death of Officer Liebengood. Every Capitol Police Officer puts the security of others before their own safety and Officer Liebengood was an example of the selfless service that is the hallmark of USCP," United States Capitol Police Union Chairman Gus Papathanasiou said in a statement. 

In addition to Howard, Metropolitan Police Department Officer Jeffrey Smith died by suicide in the days after the insurrection.

Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick also died from injuries sustained at the Capitol insurrection.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). You can also text a crisis counselor by messaging the Crisis Text Line at 741741. 

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