Capitol cop dies by suicide after riot
A veteran US Capitol Police officer has died by suicide, authorities and sources said on Sunday, days after he responded to the riot that killed five people including another member of his department.
Officer Howard Liebengood, 51, died on Saturday while off-duty, the department announced in a statement.
"He was assigned to the Senate Division, and has been with the Department since April 2005," the statement read. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, and colleagues.
"We ask that his family, and other USCP officers' and their families' privacy be respected during this profoundly difficult time."
The department did not disclose the circumstances of Officer Liebengood's death, but sources characterised it as an apparent suicide.
It was not immediately clear what drove Officer Liebengood - whose late father once served as sergeant-at-arms for the Senate - to the act.
The head of the department's labour union said that Officer Liebengood was among police who responded to last week's riot.
"We are reeling from the death of Officer Liebengood," said Gus Papathanasiou in a statement to several media outlets. "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.
"This is a tragic day."
Officer Liebengood's death came as the department was still mourning Officer Brian Sicknick, who was pepper-sprayed and fatally bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher when supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday in a futile attempt to prevent the certification of Joe Biden's 2020 election victory.
Mr Trump released a statement ordering flags be flown at half-staff at the White House and all public buildings to honour officers Liebengood and Sicknick, who died on Thursday. It's the first time Mr Trump has commented on the death of Officer Sicknick.
President Trump ordered flags lowered at WH today "as a sign of respect for the service and sacrifice of United States Capitol Police Officers Brian D. Sicknick and Howard Liebengood, and all Capitol Police Officers and law enforcement across this great Nation." pic.twitter.com/63D4r93a08— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) January 10, 2021
The Speaker of the House, Democrat Nancy Pelosi also issued a statement after the death of Officer Liebengood.
"On behalf of the House of Representatives, I send deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Officer Howard Liebengood," Ms Pelosi said.
"Officer Liebengood was a patriot who dedicated his life to defending the Capitol and protecting all who serve, work in and visit this temple of our Democracy. His passing is a great tragedy that compounds the horror of this past week.
"May Officer Liebengood's service be an inspiration to support and defend the Constitution and protect the American people. And may it be a comfort to Officer Liebengood's family that so many mourn with and pray for them at this sad time."
The Capitol Police Department itself is under intense scrutiny for the ease with which the mob overwhelmed Capitol Police and forced their way into the seat of American democracy.
Chief Steven Sund has announced his resignation from the force, effective January 16.
This article originally appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission
Originally published as Capitol cop dies by suicide after riot