The family of a Capitol Police officer who died by suicide after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol said the Justice Department has recognized the death as occurring in the line of duty, a classification that allows his family to qualify for certain benefits.
In a statement on Monday obtained by CNN, the family of Officer Howard Liebengood said they had been notified by DOJ, following an effort by his widow who had called on the department to allow her to continue to receive health and financial benefits under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program.
“We were recently notified that the Department of Justice officially determined our beloved family member U.S. Capitol Police Officer (USCP) Howie Liebengood’s passing was in the line of duty under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program. The determination is significant, healing, relieving, and we are grateful for it,” the family said, according to the network.
Serena Liebengood, the officer’s widow, had been among family members and members of Congress pushing for suicides to qualify as line of duty deaths. Liebengood died three days after the riot.
Erin Smith, the widow of Metropolitan Police Officer Jeffrey Smith who also died by suicide after Jan. 6, had also pressed for similar recognition this year from that department.
“My husband is gone, and the District of Columbia government, so far, has taken the position that for some reason, because my husband’s injuries were emotional, invisible, he didn’t die in the line of duty,” Smith wrote in an op-ed published by USA Today last year, adding that families of fallen officers should also receive such benefits.
“It’s time for the mayor, the Metropolitan Police Department, the D.C. government, and other departments and governments around the country to recognize that silent injuries, these deaths, even when at a police officer’s own hand, are a direct result of the job they have been doing,” she added.