A Capitol Police officer who died by suicide Saturday in the aftermath of the riots in Washington last week was born in Manhattan.
The officer, Howie Liebengood, was the son of Howard and Dee Liebengood, both graduates of Kansas State University. Larry Weigel, a longtime Manhattanite, considered Howard Liebengood his best friend in college; they were fraternity brothers in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house.
Watching television news on Sunday, Weigel said he “just about fell off the chair” when he learned of Howie’s death.
“He just had the kindest personality,” Weigel said in an interview with The Mercury Monday. “He was quiet, respectful. He was the perfect kind of guy to be in that job.”
The cause has been reported as suicide; there’s no indication of what led to it. Liebengood was involved in the police response to the chaos when thousands of protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, trying to stop the Congress from certifying the election of Joe Biden as the next president.
Liebengood, 51, had worked for the Capitol Police since 2005, assigned to the Senate Division. A former co-worker told the Washington Post he often worked at the Delaware entrance of the Russell Senate Office Building, his favorite posting.
“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,” said former U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who called the deaths of two Capitol Police officers in the past week “a tragic loss of two patriots who spent their careers protecting the halls of democracy.”
Howie’s father, Howard Liebengood, graduated from K-State in 1964, two years ahead of Weigel. Dee Liebengood graduated in 1963, Weigel said. In Howard’s same class at the SAE house was Richard Myers, now the university president.
Howie was born in Manhattan in 1969, Weigel said. Kay Weigel, Larry’s wife, said she and Dee carried their sons around Manhattan together as young mothers. The Weigels’ son, Nick, graduated from Manhattan High in 1988 as one of the school’s basketball greats and went on to play at K-State.
Howie grew up in the D.C. area and went to college at Purdue, Weigel said. The families stayed in touch over the years.
Larry Weigel said he’s certain that Howie’s career in the Capitol Police was directly connected to his dad’s experience there. He said there’s irony in the fact that Howard was a staunch Republican, and that his son had to go through a riot by a mob backing a Republican president.
“It just makes me sick,” Weigel said. “In a second, this whole situation comes crumbling down on you. It reaches all the way down to Manhattan, Kansas.”