A Capitol Police officer who responded to the deadly riots in Washington last week died by an apparent suicide on Saturday, according to multiple news reports, as the department struggles to fully recover from the devastating and destructive siege carried out by pro-Trump extremists.
Howard B. Liebengood, 51, worked in the Senate Division and had been assigned with the force since April 2005. He is the son of the late Sergeant of Arms Howard S. Liebengood, who died in 2005.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and colleagues,” the U.S. Capitol Police wrote in a statement issued on Sunday. “We ask that his family, and other USCP officers’ and their families’ privacy be respected during this profoundly difficult time.”
A Fox 5 DC reporter circulated a message from Gus Papathanasiou, the chair of the Capitol Police Labor Committee, honoring Liebengood on Sunday afternoon. “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 the USCP,” Papathanasiou wrote. “This is a tragic day.”
Papathanasiou sent The Daily Beast the same press release, but did not respond to a specific question regarding suicide as the cause of death. The release notes that Liebengood was “among the officers who responded to the rioting at the U.S. Capitol.”
“We extend our deepest sympathies to Officer Liebengood’s family and we mourn the death of a friend and colleague who worked alongside us to protect the lives of the Members of Congress, their staff and all who serve at the U.S. Capitol,” the full release read.
A spokesperson for the Capitol Police did not return a request for additional information.
On Sunday afternoon, Barry Pollack, a D.C.-based attorney representing Liebengood’s family, emailed a statement. “Mr. Liebengood’s family members wish to grieve privately as they mourn the sudden and heartbreaking loss of Howard Liebengood,” Pollack wrote. “He will be sorely missed.”
While details around the tragic event are still developing, Liebengood is the second Capitol Police officer to die in just one week. Brian Sicknick was violently killed in the insurgency riots on Wednesday in the nation’s capital, alongside dozens of other officers who were injured.
Sicknick, 42, was a New Jersey Air National Guard member who worked in Operations “Enduring Freedom” and “Desert Shield.”
The police response to last week’s mob was considered a colossal security and personnel failure, condemned immediately by Democratic leaders. The day after the breach, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other members of Congress formally asked for USCP Chief Steven Sund to resign. He agreed. Soon after, Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger also submitted his resignation.
President-elect Joe Biden indicated the police on the scene, who were not able to adequately contain, respond, or instantly arrest individuals in the largely white mobs, had an “unacceptable” response to the attack.
“No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,” Biden said. “We all know that’s true, and it is unacceptable.” During a separate speech in Delaware, Biden called the acts “insurrection.”
If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.