Families seek LODD designation in Capitol police suicides

Family members believe Officers Jeffrey Smith and Howard Liebengood would still be alive if they had stayed home on Jan. 6

By Suzie Ziegler 

WASHINGTON — The families of two police officers who died by suicide in the weeks after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack are seeking “line of duty” recognition for the officers’ deaths, according to The Hill

Family members believe Officer Jeffrey Smith and Howard Liebengood would still be alive if they hadn’t responded to the siege at the Capitol, according to The Washington Post. Because of that, they feel Smith and Liebengood deserve line of duty recognition. 

“But for his service to the country, they believe he would be alive today,” Liebengood family attorney Barry Pollack told The Post. 

A spokesperson for Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) told The Hill that Kaine “believes these are line of duty deaths.” Both officers lived in Virginia. 

According to The Hill, most duty deaths do not include suicides because suicide can’t be attributed to one incident. But Jeffrey Smith’s wife, Erin, said her husband wasn’t the same after the riot and he had no history of depression. 

“He wasn’t the same Jeff that left on the sixth. ... I just tried to comfort him and let him know that I loved him,” Smith told The Post. “If he didn’t go to work that day he would still be alive.”

Howard Liebengood’s wife, Serena, also spoke out in support of a line-of-duty recognition. 

“I cannot imagine the trauma Howie and his colleagues faced on January 6th or the pain they have endured afterwards,” Liebengood told The Post. “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.” 

But getting duty death classifications for Smith and Liebengood could be difficult. 

According to The Post, D.C. law says a duty death must be “the sole and direct” result of an on-duty injury and one not caused by an “intention to bring about his own death.” 

The chairman of the D.C. police union, Greggory Pemberton, told The Post that he would support an investigation into the reasoning behind Smith’s suicide. However, Pemberton said a duty death designation for Smith at this time would be “premature.” The head of the union for Capitol Police did not respond to questions about Liebengood, according to The Post.

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