A veteran New York Police Department officer reportedly committed suicide late Aug. 14 in his home in Laurelton, Queens. According to reports, his death marks the ninth suicide of a police officer in New York this year.
The New York Daily News reported that off-duty officer Robert Echeverria, 56, was rushed to North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital. He could not be saved, and he was later pronounced dead.
His wife had called 911 earlier in the evening to report that the 25-year-veteran had shot himself. She said that she found him on the floor with a gun on his bed, the news outlet reported.
“This is heartbreaking to see a family torn apart no matter the situation,” said Brenden Betts, 23, a neighbor who works for the Department of Transportation told the New York Post.
Sources told the NY Daily News that Echeverria was a member of the Strategic Response Team, an elite group assigned to events such as mass shootings and large protests.
“We are saddened to announce that the NYPD has suffered another tragedy today with the loss of one of our officers to suicide,” the NYPD wrote to Twitter.
“To anyone who may be struggling, know that there is support available. Behind each of these resources are people that care about your well-being.”
We are saddened to announce that the NYPD has suffered another tragedy today with the loss of one of our officers to suicide.
To anyone who may be struggling, know that there is support available.
Behind each of these resources are people that care about your well-being. pic.twitter.com/1rYN9mmdUJ
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) August 15, 2019
Mayor Bill de Blasio also issued a public message following Echeverria’s death.
“Tonight our city mourns a tragedy. We won’t let anyone struggle alone,” he wrote on Twitter. “I want every one of New York’s Finest to know we are here for you. We value you. Help is available. Please reach out.”
Staten Island District Attorney Michael E. McMahon wrote on Twitter: “I cannot stress this enough to our brothers and sisters in blue: We support you, we appreciate you, and we are here for you.
“To all who count a member of the [NYPD] among your loved ones, reach out and ask them how they’re feeling. It can make all the difference.”
The latest NYPD officer’s death comes just a day after another off-duty NYPD officer, Johnny Rios, 35, had reportedly shot himself in the head inside his home in Yonkers.
Law enforcement sources told the New York Daily News that the officer, who worked for the department for seven years, had left a suicide note. He shot himself around 3:30 a.m. and his fiancee was in the house at the time.
Four officers have taken their own lives in June alone. One of them was Rios’ fiend, Kevin Preiss, a 53-year-old Bronx officer, and married father-of-three, who was found dead on Long Island on June 27.
“It’s horrible that a person would be driven to that—not be able to get the help they need and feel so helpless,” said neighbor Ellen McGreevy. “I can’t imagine what drove him to that point.”
Following Rios’s death, the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, which represents over 50,000 active and retired New York City Police Officers, issued a public statement.
“SUICIDES: Don’t do it. It solves nothing, and you are leaving devastation behind you. Your fellow cops are under siege. The job created this monster—it won’t get better unless we stick together,” the association wrote to Twitter.
SUICIDES: Don’t do it. It solves nothing, and you are leaving devastation behind you. Your fellow cops are under siege. The Job created this monster — it won’t get better unless we stick together. https://t.co/xg8xtw2GVJ
— NYC PBA (@NYCPBA) August 13, 2019
The recent spate of suicides among NYPD officers has prompted talk among leaders who now seek to address the situation.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill and Chief of Department Terrence Monahan are considering to have peer counselors and clinicians stationed in each precinct, reported WABC.
“We’re supposed to be tough, and that’s ok, it comes with the line of work, but where’s the outlet for that,” O’Neill said, according to WABC. “You’re not gonna go home and talk about it; you’re not gonna talk to your family about that. The critical step forward here is peer support and then once we steer that person to help, that help’s effective. And they understand this is not an end to their career.”
Monahan said in a video posted after NYPD Deputy Chief Steven Silks was found dead by suicide in early June. “Your health and well-being is extremely important to all of us. We all want to make sure you take care of yourself.”
Deputy Chief Steve Silks was a friend & a great cop dedicated to service for 38 years. As we mourn his tragic loss, know YOU’RE NEVER ALONE — no matter your rank or time on the job. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Share this video to provide options for assistance. #StopSuicide pic.twitter.com/yXeSWLVxQ5
— Chief Terence Monahan (@NYPDChiefofDept) June 6, 2019
On the NYPD’s website, resources are listed to assist officers with the emotional and physical toll that their jobs may bring. Numbers for the Employee Assistance Unit, Chaplain’s Unit, and peer assistance program are listed on the website, along with other mental health resources.
If you or someone you know in the United States is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Other worldwide suicide hotlines can be found at befrienders.org/directory.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report