Howard Liebengood, Purdue alumnus and Capitol police officer, died by suicide on Jan. 9, prompting a surge of grief throughout the Purdue community.
Liebengood graduated from Purdue in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in history, Purdue spokesperson Tim Doty said. Liebengood was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.
The fraternity’s Instagram account, “purduepikes,” posted a photo of Liebengood on Jan. 10. The caption read:
“It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of the passing of our Brother, Officer Howard Liebengood. Officer Liebengood was a Pi Kappa Alpha Class of ‘91 and had served with the United States Capitol Police for 15 years. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones at this time.”
The Exponent’s original reporting garnered thousands of interactions on social media, eliciting comments from Purdue students and alumni alike, as well as from friends and family of the officer.
Before he became a Capitol police officer, Liebengood spent many years as a professional race car driver. Before going pro, Liebengood competed in the Purdue Grand Prix, driving car No. 9 for Pi Kappa Alpha. During his tenure he often raced alongside his longtime friend Doug Wright, another former Pi Kappa Alpha member who graduated before Liebengood. Wright is the owner of Doug Wright Racing, a professional racing team based in Lafayette.
Wright declined to interview with The Exponent, but had this to say about Liebengood:
“Howie was a great guy and certainly loved Purdue, the Purdue Grand Prix, and much more,” Wright said.
During his racing career, Liebengood spent three years racing as partner to Andy Lally, one of the “most prolific sports car drivers in North America” according to RACER.com.
“He was just an amazing guy,” Lally told RACER after Liebengood’s death. “We were teammates in ’98, ’99 and 2000, and he would go to elementary schools, out of his own pocket would just do these seminars called ‘The National Campaign to Stop Violence,’ and he would preach against bullying, and was just a really positive individual that wanted to help people while integrating this campaign into his racing. On top of all of that, he was a really fast race car driver.”
Liebengood began working as an officer guarding the Capitol building in 2005, and was on duty during the riots on Jan. 6, according to reporting from The Washington Post.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his friends, family and colleagues,” a statement from Capitol Police read. “We ask that his family, and other USCP officers’ and their families’ privacy be respected during this profoundly difficult time.”
Liebengood is now the second Capitol police officer to die since Jan. 6. Officer Brian Sicknick died from injuries sustained during the Capitol building riot.