Queens, NY – New York Police Officer Robert Echeverria died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home on Wednesday evening.
The 56-year-old officer’s wife called 911 just before 6:20 p.m., and reported that her husband shot himself, the New York Daily News reported.
She said she found the 25-year veteran-of-the-force lying on the bedroom floor, and that his gun was on the bed, sources told the paper.
First responders rushed to the veteran officer’s Laurelton home, and medics soon transported him to North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“We are saddened to announce that the NYPD has suffered another tragedy today with the loss of one of our officers to suicide,” the New York Police Department (NYPD) said in a tweet just after 8 p.m.
Officer Echeverria was a member of the NYPD’s elite Strategic Response Group, which handles large protests and mass shootings, the New York Daily News reported.
He was also a military veteran, according to WPIX.
"We are hurting right now, it’s been a very tough year," NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said on Thursday, according to WNBC. "From the unions, to the membership, to the executives in the police department — we’re all feeling it. And we're all trying as best as we can to work together to come up with initiatives to do more. Everyone wants the same thing here."
Neighbors said that Officer Echeverria has two children – a young daughter and a teenage son, the New York Daily News reported.
“We were supposed to see each other’s kids graduate," his friend, Derek Clarke, told the paper. “It’s heart-wrenching to think you’re going through anything to take your own life.”
Clarke described Officer Echeverria as a “good-hearted father.”
“Family man just doing his job, doing his duty,” he said.
Officer Echeverria was the ninth NYPD officer to commit suicide in 2019.
Just one day prior, NYPD Officer Johnny Rios was also found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his Yonkers home.
“How many people are going to end up dead before something changes?” Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins asked, according to the New York Post.
Mullins said that department leaders need to do more to help the officers who are out working the streets.
“I think they need to look at the big picture,’’ the union leader said. “I think they need to take a look at PTSD. I think we need to look into the idea of annual therapy, basically extracting the trauma that builds up.’’
NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan said that the department plans to hire additional peer-level counselors to help support officers, the New York Post reported.
“We look at this like there is a contagion,’’ Chief Monahan said. “We had averaged four to five suicides over the last few years. Currently this year, we have [nine] suicides. That is a very large number.”
New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said he was stunned to learn about Officer Echeverria’s death.
"You know, you think, OK, this is gonna be the last one. And last night I got a phone call and it just almost knocked me down. It just took the wind right out of me, you know, what the hell's going on here," Commissioner O’Neill said, according to CBS News.
"There's people out there that love you and want to help you,” the commissioner continued. “But unless you come forward, unless your partner says something, or friend, we're not gonna know.”
But Officer Echeverria’s sister, Eileen Echeverria, said she warned the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau that her brother was a risk to himself back in June, the New York Post reported.
Eileen said that the department ended up removing the veteran officer’s firearms temporarily, but that they returned everything several days later after a mental health treatment provider determined that Officer Echeverria wasn’t a risk to himself or anyone else.
When the internal affairs lieutenant called Eileen to tell her about the treatment provider’s decision, she warned the lieutenant that her brother would use one of the guns to kill himself, she told the New York Post.
“I said to them, ‘my brother is going to kill himself and the blood is on you,’” she railed. “Almost two months to the day my brother killed himself, and now I have to bury him…The NYPD destroyed my entire family. [They] didn’t give a s--t.”
She declared that Mayor Bill de Blasio is a “piece of s--t mayor who doesn’t care about police,” and blasted the NYPD for the “disgraceful” way they have handled the rash of officer suicides, the New York Post reported.
Eileen said that Officer Echeverria struggled with financial and mental health issues, and that his relationship with his wife had been tumultuous.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of New York Police Officer Robert Echeverria, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.