HAMILTON NJ June 21 2017 -- The off-duty Hamilton police officer pronounced dead after a two-car crash in the township Monday died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head prior to his vehicle rear-ending a van, authorities said Tuesday.
Officer Tom White, 44, was found unconscious and unresponsive in his pickup truck by police responding to the Nottingham Way collision.
"On behalf of the entire Hamilton Police Division, our thoughts and prayers are with Officer White's family," Hamilton Police Chief James W. Collins said in a statement. "He will be greatly missed."
White's truck hit the back of a commercial van around 3:10 p.m. White was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the van was not injured.
An autopsy Tuesday confirmed that he died from the gunshot wound and his death was ruled a suicide.
White, who joined the department in 2009, was recalled Tuesday for the positive influence he had on so many students and families through his work in Hamilton schools.
Since early 2016, he has been a L.E.A.D. (Law Enforcement Against Drugs) officer in the district's Reynolds Middle School and served as co-director of the township's Police Athletic League Safety Town.
"Officer Tom White touched the lives of thousands of young people in Hamilton Township through his work with the LEAD program, as Officer Friendly, and as the director of Safety Town," Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri said. "He will be sorely missed, as an officer and a good friend."
White was previously assigned to the patrol bureau, where he received numerous awards. He and another officer were recognized for their heroic efforts to rescue two people at a fatal house fire in January 2011.
The community was in mourning following news of White's death. Black and purple bunting was hung outside police headquarters and the flag was lowered to half-staff.
Many changed their Facebook profile pictures to the Hamilton police crest with a blue and black line and some bore White's badge number: 465.
Students were encouraged to wear blue to school to honor his memory.
"Officer White was known to so many in our school community and had a positive influence on all who met him," Superintendent Scott Rocco said. "He was respected by the faculty and staff of Reynolds and across our district, adored by the students he worked with and a positive influence in our schools."
Mayor Kelly Yaede said White will be remembered for his service to the community.
"Officer White has touched many lives and worked to ensure the safety of our young people," she said. "For that, our community will always be grateful. ... I want to extend our collective sympathies and our prayers for Officer White's family and loved ones during this extremely difficult time. May they always take solace in the fact that his legacy will endure through the achievements of the countless children he served across our community."