2nd Capitol Police Officer Dies, Days After Defending Capitol Building Against Rioters

Trump supporters stand on top of a police vehicle
Trump supporters stand on top of a police vehicle, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. As Congress prepares to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory, thousands of people have gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump and his claims of election fraud. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

A second Capitol Police officer who defended the U.S. Capitol building against pro-Trump rioters last week has died, the U.S. Capitol Police said in a statement Sunday.

The statement did not give a cause of death for Officer Howard Liebengood, 51, a 15-year veteran of the Capitol Police. He died Saturday while off duty.

Citing law enforcement officials, The Washington Post and other news outlets reported that Liebengood's death was a suicide.

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Liebengood’s death followed that of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, a New Jersey Air National Guard veteran, who was fatally injured battling the "Stop the Steal" mob that swarmed the Capitol as House and Senate members prepared to certify the presidential election results.

In a statement last week, the Capitol Police said that Sicknick was injured "while physically engaging with protesters" and succumbed to his injuries at a local hospital Thursday.

Liebengood also was on duty last Wednesday during the riot aimed at stopping the vote certifying the Electoral College results declaring former Vice President Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election.

After the building was cleared, the House and Senate reassembled and voted to confirm the Electoral College count that Biden had defeated President Donald Trump 306-232.

Liebengood, who served on the Senate side of the Capitol, was the son of Howard S. Liebengood, the former Senate sergeant-at-arms and had been with the department since April 2005, according to the Capitol Police statement.

"We are reeling from the death of Officer Liebengood," Gus Papathanasiou, chairman of the Capitol Police union, said in a statement. "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."

One of the tributes to Liebengood and Sicknick came from former Secretary of State and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who has been named by Biden as his chief envoy on climate change.

Recalling his Senate days, Kerry said via Twitter, "Howie always had a smile on his face, but he also showed great care for the safety of the young staff who worked behind our office doors."

He called the deaths of Liebengood and Sicknick "a tragic loss of two patriots who spent their careers protecting the halls of democracy."

Liebengood marks the sixth death related to the mob attack on the Capitol building last Wednesday and its aftermath.

Ashli Babbitt, 35, an Air Force veteran from California who allegedly joined the pro-Trump rioters inside the Capitol building, was shot to death by a Capitol Police officer. Her death is under investigation, and the officer who fired the shot was placed on administrative leave.

Rosanne Boyland, 34, of Kennesaw, Georgia; Kevin Greeson, 55, of Athens, Alabama; and Benjamin Phillips, 50, of Ringtown, Pennsylvania, also died of unspecified medical emergencies following the riots, according to Metropolitan Washington, D.C., Police.

On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., ordered the flag over the Capitol building to be lowered to half-staff in honor of Sicknick, but the flag over the White House remained at full-staff.

On Sunday morning, the two-million member American Legion joined others calling on Trump to lower the flag.

"Mr. President, do the right thing and lower the flags that are under your authority to half-staff in honor of this hero who gave his life defending the house of the people," American Legion National Commander James W. "Bill" Oxford said in a statement.

By mid-afternoon Sunday, the flag atop the White House had been lowered to half-staff; Trump later issued a proclamation honoring Sicknick and Liebengood.

"[The flag was lowered] 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," he said in the proclamation.

Trump also ordered that the flag be flown at half-staff at public buildings and military posts and vessels until Jan. 13.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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