The widow of a Capitol Police officer who committed suicide three days after Trump supporters stormed Congress, says her husband was ‘severely sleep-deprived’ and working ‘around the clock’ before taking his own life.
Howie Liebengood, 51, died January 9 while off-duty. He had worked for the United States Capitol Police for 15 years.
In a letter sent to Virginia Rep. Jennifer Wexton on Wednesday, Howie’s widow, Serena Liebengood, declared that the USCP ‘must be held accountable’ for her husband’s death and institute reforms to address the mental health of its officers.
She is also calling on USCP to reclassify Howie’s death to ‘in the line of duty’.
‘What must not be lost in all of this is my beloved husband died as the result his dedication to the USCP and the sacrifices he made to his well-being on January 6 and the ensuing days, just as assuredly as if he had been slain on the Capitol steps,’ Serena stated in the letter, which was obtained by CBS.
‘Recognition of the cause of his death, much like the critical examination of the riot itself, will remain central to how we make right those tragedies and help avoid their repetition.’
The widow of a Capitol Police officer who committed suicide three days after Trump supporters stormed Congress says her husband was ‘severely sleep-deprived’ and working ‘around the clock’ before taking his own life. Liebengood is pictured on his wedding day
Howard Liebengood had worked for the USCP for 15 years. He is pictured on duty prior to his death
Liebengood is the second Capitol Police officer to die in the days after Trump supporters stormed Congress in a bid to block the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory
Serena further stated in the letter: ‘There is no way to convey what our family is going through, as we struggle to simply function in our grief’.
‘Although Howie was severely sleep-deprived, he remained on duty — as he was directed — practically around the clock from January 6th through the 9th. On the evening of the 9th, he took his life at our home.’
‘The USCP must be held accountable for its actions and structural reforms instituted; and the mental and emotional well-being of these officers can no longer be overlooked or taken for granted.’
The widow explained that the USCP now has ‘a unique and important opportunity to honor Howie’ by instituting reforms to help officers deal with mental health issues.’
Rep. Wexton, who was the recipient of the letter, told CBS that she will push to ensure reforms are made by the USCP.
‘We know that if not for the events of January 6, Officer Howie Liebengood would still be with us today,’ she stated.
‘His death was a direct result of his defending the U.S. Capitol, an institution that he was devoted to and loved. I will continue to fight for proper recognition for Howie and his family.’
However, acting USCP chief Yogananda Pittman has stated that police department is unable to reclassify Howie’s death to ‘in the line of duty’.
‘While I want to support the Liebengood family to the maximum extent possible, Line of Duty Death declarations are given to officers who die while carrying out official law enforcement responsibilities,’ she told CBS.
‘Even the deaths of the law enforcement officers who tragically took their own lives after the terrorist attack on September 11th were not considered Line of Duty Deaths.’
Howie Liebengood had worked for the USCP for 15 years
Trump supporters stormed the Capitol Building on January 6, outnumbering overwhelmed police officers
Howie Liebengood was one of two Capitol Police officers who committed suicide following the January 6 riot.
Jeffrey Smith, 35, shot himself in the head on January 15 as he headed into work for an overnight shift.
In an interview with The Washington Post, his wife, Erin, questioned the medical care he received after being hit with a metal pole during the insurrection.
‘He wasn’t the same Jeff that left on the 6th… I just tried to comfort him and let him know that I loved him,’ Erin stated.
‘I told him I’d be there if he needed anything, that no matter what, we’ll get through it. I tried to do the best I could.’
After being injured on January 6, Erin noted that her husband seemed in constant pain, unable to turn his head. Jeffrey didn’t leave the house or even walk the couple’s dog. She said that the cop refused to talk to other people and she would find him pacing the house in the middle of the night.
Erin added that at a medical appointment for his injuries, Jeffrey was only seen for roughly 10 minutes. Police would not comment on the visit, citing privacy laws.
Capitol Police officer Jeffrey Smith, 35, shot himself in the head on January 15 as he headed into work for an overnight shift
The USCP has faced fierce criticism over its perceived failure to stop the riots.
Chief Steven Sund stepped down stepped down the week after the riot amid claims the force was deliberately under-supported to avoid inflaming tensions with what might have been perceived as bad optics.
Fewer than 2,000 Capitol cops and only 300 unarmed National Guard were on duty to meet the mob of some 10,000.
Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died January 7 after clashing with Trump supporters outside Congress the previous day.
Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died January 7 after clashing with Trump supporters outside Congress the previous day