Feb 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Police widows want husbands' deaths by suicide honored

A memorial to Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood on display in the  Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in January.

A memorial to Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood on display in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in January. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The families of two police officers who died by suicide within days after defending Congress from a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6 want their deaths recognized as “in the line of duty,” according to The Washington Post.

The big picture: The assault on the Capitol claimed five lives including Brian Sicknick, who died from injuries he sustained during the siege. Metropolitan Police officer Jeffrey Smith, 35, and Capitol Police officer Howard Liebengood, 51, who had been on duty during the attack, took their own lives days later.

  • Smith was found dead in his vehicle, which had rolled over and down an embankment along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. He died before the car wreck from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
  • Liebengood, 51, took his life three days after the riot, according to the Post.
  • They were buried in private ceremonies.
“I cannot imagine the trauma Howie and his colleagues faced on January 6th or the pain they have endured afterwards. In Howie’s case, it cost him his life. His service, sacrifice and memory should be honored with official recognition that he died in the line of duty.”
— Serena Liebengood, widow of Officer Howie Liebengood.

Officer Sicknick laid in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda at the beginning of February.

  • The ceremony for him included remarks from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)

What they're saying: In an interview with the Post, acting D.C. police chief Robert Contee did not say if he would support designating Smith's death as in the line of duty.

  • Contee described care given to officers, including Smith, after the riot as “adequate” but added that the department "can always do better.”

During former President Trump's second impeachment trial, Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), a House impeachment manager, told senators on Saturday that the "trial will end, and we'll resume our lives and our work. But for some, there will be no end to the pain of what happened on January 6th."

  • "The officers who struggle to recover from the injuries they sustained to protect us — they struggled to recover today. The families who continue to mourn those who they lost on that terrible, tragic day," Neguse added.

By the numbers: 65 D.C. Police officers who responded to the riot and 70 Capitol Police officers were injured in hand-to-hand combat that lasted for hours, according to the Post.

  • Multiple people, including members of far-right extremist groups, have been arrested over their alleged involvement in the Capitol siege.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

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