Family of Howie Liebengood, Officer Who Died After Capitol Riot, Urges Congress to Investigate Jan. 6

The family of Howard Liebengood, a Capitol Hill police officer who died in the aftermath of the January 6 attack, released a statement Wednesday urging Congress to implement an independent and bipartisan commission to investigate the riot.

The family's statement comes as the House is expected to vote on two bills aimed at addressing the attack this week. One seeks to establish a 9/11-style commission to study the underlying causes of the riot, while the other would allocate $1.9 billion to address security problems revealed by the assault.

"We believe a thorough, non-partisan investigation into the root causes of and the response to the January 6th riot is essential for our nation to move forward," Liebengood's family said in their statement. "Howie's death was an immediate outgrowth of those events. Every officer who worked that day, as well as their families, should have a better understanding of what happened."

The statement went on, "Uncovering the facts will help our nation heal and may lessen the lingering emotional bitterness that has divided our country. We implore Congress to work as one and establish the proposed Commission." The statement was released by U.S. Representative Jennifer Wexton's office.

Liebengood was one of five people, including three police officers, to die as a result of the January 6 riot. The Capitol police officer took his life on January 9, which his family said came as a "direct result of the trauma and strain from the January 6th attack on the Capitol and the around-the-clock shifts in the subsequent days."

In addition to advocating for an independent investigative commission, Liebengood's family has focused on improving mental health resources for officers. Working with Wexton, a Virginia Democrat, the family renamed a program for the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) the Howard C. "Howie" Liebengood Center for Wellness, which provides mental health counselors and resilience specialists for trauma support.

"We are honored a wellness program bearing Howie's name has been proposed in the security supplemental along with more resources for the program. We welcome and support the new funding and staffing initiatives that will help prevent future tragedies among the USCP," the family said.

Capitol Hill riot
Supporters of President Donald Trump clash with police and security forces as they push barricades to storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6. ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

The family's statement on Wednesday came after the House Homeland Security Committee unveiled a plan last week to establish the independent 10-member investigative commission last week. The commission would be evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, and grant members the authority to issue subpoenas to obtain information while investigating the attack.

The Democratic-led House was expected to pass the legislation in a vote later on Wednesday. Republicans, however, have pushed back against the bill, signaling that it will face an uphill battle in the evenly split Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that he'd "made a decision to oppose" the commission and urged his fellow Republicans to do the same. He said that law enforcement efforts to find those who participated in the attack are already underway, adding that there is "no shortage of robust investigations" at this point.

"It's not at all clear what new facts or additional investigation yet another commission could actually lay on top of existing efforts by law enforcement and Congress," McConnell said, according to NBC News.

So far, more than 440 people have been charged with participating in the January 6 attack, many of whom have ties to right-wing extremist groups, according to the FBI.

Newsweek contacted McConnell for additional comment but did not hear back in time for publication.