Plant City, FL – A Hillsborough sheriff’s deputy killed three of his family members, including a child, early Wednesday morning before committing suicide in front of three other deputies.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday morning that the deputy popped up unexpectedly on the sheriff’s department’s main radio channel at about 6:42 a.m. on Dec. 19, WFLA reported.
The deputy announced over the police radio that he had harmed family members in two different locations, and that he was going to drive over to the Plant City High School and kill himself, Sheriff Chronister said.
A supervisor got on the radio and tried to talk the suicidal deputy out of hurting himself while deputies responded to find him parked nearby the high school.
Sheriff Chronister said the three deputies who found their distraught colleague tried to talk him out of suicide, but that he killed himself in front of them.
The sheriff said he wasn’t releasing the name of the deputy or his deceased family members until next-of-kin notifications had been made.
He said authorities had just gotten warrants and made entry at the two addresses the deputy had provided over the radio during his emotional call.
Sheriff Chronister told reporters that deputies have confirmed that a woman and female child were deceased at one residence, and another woman was deceased at a second address.
The sheriff said the deputy had been with the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office since 1991.
The deputy had briefly retired, but returned to the department when the state mandate for armed officers at schools went into effect.
Sheriff Chronister said the deputy had just been hired back permanently and was excited about it and said “Christmas came early.”
“There’s been absolutely no indication of behavior issues,” he said and described “glowing recommendations… no indication whatsoever that would lead a prudent and reasonable person to believe that this deputy would ever conduct himself in the manner in which he has.”
The sheriff said that during his radio transmission, “he talked about how much he loved the sheriff’s office.”
He said the deputy also talked about having health and financial issues; however, nothing came up regarding the deputy’s finances during the recent background check conducted for his rehiring.
This is the second Hillsborough sheriff’s deputy to kill a family member and then commit suicide this year.
In September, 39-year-old Deputy Kirk Kiethley fatally shot his 33-year-old wife, Samantha, and then committed suicide while their four children were in the house, WFLA reported.
“Certainly I’m extremely concerned and we’ve been concerned because we’ve seen suicide rates have risen. Already today, we’re on the scene of two other suicides,” Sheriff Chronister said.
He said that suicides have become more prevalent in society, and that his department will be implementing a new suicide awareness and prevention program in January.
“I truly believe law enforcement is no different than modern day society. We have to change the culture,” the sheriff said. “We have to make sure that everyone knows that it’s okay to ask for help.”
“It’s not a sign of weakness to say hey listen, I’m having a difficult time, I’m having a hard time. I need some help. So we’re working diligently here at the sheriff’s office to make sure our employees are aware of that as well,” he said.