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Second officer from Capitol riot dies by suicide, police chief says

"Other harm from this traumatic day will be widely felt but possibly unacknowledged," the acting chief of the Metropolitan Police Department said.
Image: Capitol police
Police try to hold back protesters who gathered to storm the Capitol, on Jan. 6, 2021.Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images file

A second police officer who defended the U.S. Capitol during the mob attack on Jan. 6 has died by suicide, the acting chief of the Metropolitan Police Department said this week.

Chief Robert J. Contee III told a House committee on Tuesday that Officer Jeffrey Smith, a 12-year-veteran of the Metro Police Department, had killed himself recently. Another officer, Howard Liebengood, who joined the Capitol Police in 2005, died by suicide three days after the attack. Liebengood was 51.

"Other harm from this traumatic day will be widely felt but possibly unacknowledged," Contee said. "Law enforcement training neither anticipates nor prepares for hours of hand-to-hand combat."

Smith's family could not immediately be reached for comment. Liebengood's family declined requests for an interview through their attorney.

Five people, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, died in events related to the attack. The New York Times and The Associated Press have reported that Sicknick was hit in the head by a rioter wielding a fire extinguisher. Contee said in his testimony that 65 of his officers were injured in what he described as a "battle."

"Many more sustained injuries from the assault — scratches, bruises, eyes burning from bear mace — that they did not even bother to report," Contee said.

The Capitol Police union said in a statement Wednesday that nearly 140 D.C. and Capitol police officers were injured, and that one officer would likely lose an eye. Gus Papathanasiou, the chairman of the union, said some officers had not been issued helmets prior to the attack and sustained head injuries.

Papathanasiou's statement was in response to the closed-door testimony of Yogananda Pittman, the acting chief of the Capitol Police. Pittman told the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday that the department knew two days before the attack that members of militia groups and white supremacist organizations would be among those coming to the Capitol and that some of them may be armed. But, she admitted, her team "did not do enough" to prepare.

Contee said the Metropolitan Police Department "is working to support the emotional well being of our officers who experienced this."

Liebengood, who lived in Vienna, Virginia, was assigned to the Senate Division. He was born in Manhattan, Kansas, according to his obituary. He is survived by his wife, Serena; a brother, John; a sister, Anne Winters; three nephews and a niece.

On Jan. 10, former Secretary of State John F. Kerry called the deaths of Sicknick and Liebengood "a tragic loss of two patriots who spent their careers protecting the halls of democracy."

Kerry, a former senator, said that during his last years in office, Liebengood was stationed next to one of his offices in the Russell Building.

"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," Kerry tweeted.

Barry Pollack, a lawyer for Liebengood's family, said they "wish to grieve privately as they mourn the sudden and heartbreaking loss." Pollack said Liebengood "will be sorely missed."

"His death is a tragedy that has deprived all of us a dedicated public servant," Pollack said.

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or visit for additional resources.