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The Washington Post

DOJ: Officer’s suicide after Jan. 6 riot counts as line of responsibility loss of life

A Justice Division workplace has dominated that Capitol Police officer Howard Liebengood — who killed himself days after encountering rioters in the course of the Jan. 6, 2021, rebellion — died within the line of responsibility, based on his household and authorities.

The designation from the Justice Division’s Public Security Officers’ Advantages Program means Liebengood’s household will obtain a lump-sum fee. The exact quantity was not instantly clear, however it is going to be according to what family members of different federal legislation enforcement officers killed whereas performing their duties have acquired.

In August, President Biden signed the Public Safety Officer Support Act that made it simpler for households of officers who die by suicide to entry loss of life advantages. The president of the nationwide Fraternal Order of Police mentioned the declare filed by Liebengood is the first under that new law.

“The willpower is critical, therapeutic, relieving, and we’re grateful for it,” Liebengood’s household mentioned in an announcement, which was despatched on behalf of Liebengood’s spouse, Serena, his sister Anne Winters and brother John Liebengood.

The designation doesn’t have an effect on whether or not family members can entry the officer’s pension advantages, that are overseen by an company inside the Labor Division. The request for these advantages is pending, a household spokeswoman mentioned.

Liebengood patrolled the grounds exterior Senate workplace buildings the day of the assault, and labored practically around-the-clock within the days that adopted, his household has mentioned. He encountered rioters however didn’t battle them bodily. He died by suicide three days later.

The Justice Division didn’t touch upon Liebengood’s case however mentioned in an announcement its Public Security Officers’ Advantages Program “works intently with survivors, injured officers, and companies to acquire the required documentation to adjust to the PSOB legislation and its implementing laws.”

A Capitol Police spokesman mentioned company leaders are happy with the Justice Division’s choice. “Suicide has develop into an epidemic within the legislation enforcement occupation,” the spokesman mentioned in an announcement. “We are going to proceed to work with the Liebengood household to deal with this necessary difficulty.”

Patrick Yoes, the nationwide FOP president, mentioned in an announcement that the choice “is a vital step in acknowledging that legislation enforcement suicides are service-connected and must be seen for what they’re — line of responsibility deaths.”

In March, a D.C. retirement board granted a full pension to the widow of D.C. police officer Jeffrey Smith, who took his life after he was injured within the Capitol riot. The choice gave her a yearly annuity equal to one hundred pc of her husband’s wage. The D.C. Police and Firefighters Retirement and Reduction Board mentioned Smith’s head harm that day “was the only real and direct reason for his loss of life.”

Wife of D.C. police officer who took own life after Capitol riot presses city to recognize his death

Police companies traditionally have been reluctant to honor officers who die by suicide. D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III, who has talked about Smith whereas talking publicly about the price police bore from responding to the rebellion, has raised questions in regards to the connections between the riot and the officer’s loss of life.

Contee and division attorneys wrote in a letter to the D.C. retirement board that it will be “pure hypothesis” to hyperlink Smith’s suicide to the assault, saying there may be “no direct proof of Officer Smith’s mind-set on the time of his loss of life.”

Within the assertion on Monday, the Liebengood household addressed the battle for recognition to alter the prevailing view. “This is a vital step in an extended effort to alter outdated processes and attitudes,” the household mentioned. “We additionally hope that this helps different households who’ve felt the ache of dropping a liked one to suicide.”

Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick died a day after his collapse in the course of the riot. The medical expert dominated that his loss of life was from pure causes. Two males have been arrested and charged with assaulting him; both have pleaded guilty.

Sicknick lay in honor at the Rotunda, and President Biden attended his memorial.

Two D.C. law enforcement officials who have been on the Capitol on Jan. 6 took their very own lives within the months afterward; their households haven’t spoken publicly.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D) of Virginia, the place each Smith and Liebengood lived, was one of many authentic sponsors of the legislation making it simpler for households of officers who die by suicide to entry advantages. In an announcement, he praised the federal pension board’s ruling on Liebengood.

“He was a person who devoted his life to serving others and spent 15 years defending the halls of democracy,” Kaine mentioned. “His loss of life within the wake of the horrors of the January 6 rebellion was a heartbreaking loss for his household and for each American who believes within the promise of our democratic establishments. We’ve a duty to hold with us his spirit of service and to provide his household the popularity and unwavering assist they deserve.”

Two officers who helped fight the Capitol mob died by suicide. Many more are hurting.

On Monday, Liebengood’s household described the officer as “kindhearted and fiercely loyal.”

“All of us desperately miss his one-of-a-kind smile and his heat, mild temperament, however we take some solace in figuring out that Howie formally has acquired this well-deserved honor,” the household mentioned, including, “We look ahead to persevering with to cut back the stigma round psychological well being and suicide for public security officers — who make sacrifices for us all.”

Tim Barber, a Capitol Police spokesman, mentioned Chief Tom Manger plans to debate with the Capitol Police Board, which governs coverage for the company, whether or not so as to add Liebengood’s identify to the memorial listing of officers who died within the line of responsibility. A Capitol Police Board consultant declined to remark.

David P. Weber, who represents Smith’s household, mentioned he has made the same request to D.C. police. He mentioned he has not but heard again from the division. Dustin Sternbeck, a police spokesman, mentioned the matter stays beneath assessment.

For those who or somebody you recognize wants assist, textual content or name the Suicide and Disaster Lifeline at 988 or 800-273-TALK.

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