Houston TX April 1 2017 A Houston police sergeant shot and killed himself Friday morning in his west Houston patrol station, police said.
The 21-year Houston Police Department veteran appears to have shot himself once in the head, Chief Art Acevedo said. The sergeant, who authorities have not yet publicly identified, was married and had two children, ages 10 and 12.
The sergeant was found around 8:35 a.m. inside of a stairwell on the fourth floor at the Westside Patrol Station, where he worked, at 3203 South Dairy Ashford, Acevedo said. The fourth floor is not currently in use, so no one heard the gunshot.
Officers working in the station decided to search the facility after they discovered at 7 a.m. the sergeant had not come to work.
"You can't explain these things," Acevedo said. "We ask that people please just pray for the family, pray for those young children."
Police have not yet released the sergeant's name, and the investigation continues. HPD psychological services and chaplain services were on site at the Westside Patrol Station on Friday morning.
More law enforcement officers die each year by suicide than in the line of duty, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Risk factors for officers include "exposure to violence, suicide, or other job-related stressors; depression, anxiety, or other mental illness; substance abuse; domestic abuse; access to means to killoneself (e.g., firearms); and poor physical health," according to research cited by the U.S. Department of Justice.
An expert who studies police suicide, John Volanti, found that officers actually have a slightly lower suicide rate than the general public (12 per 100,000 versus 13 per 100,000). He calculated that police have are 8 times more likely to die by suicide than homicide and 3 times more likely to die by suicide than by accidents. About 100-150 officers die by suicide each year, Volanti found.
The FBI cited Volanti's work in describing the profile of officers most at risk for suicide: "91 percent were male, 63 percent were single, and those between the ages of 40 and 44 with 15 to 19 years of service were most at risk. This profile represents a significant percentage of those currently employed by law enforcement agencies. Some of these officers are experiencing mid-career burnout and malaise, but have too many years invested to change careers and are years away from retirement eligibility."
The most recent known suicide by a Houston Police Department officer came in August 2014 when 21-year veteran Rudolph Farias III, under investigation in a ticket-rigging scam, fatally shot himself in a patrol car in a downtown police parking garage.