New Jersey Sheriff’s Officer Takes His Own Life at Work, Stunning Colleagues
TRENTON — A beloved member of the Mercer County Sheriff's Office was found dead on Wednesday after apparently taking his own life.
Detective Pablo Santiago was found dead in a restroom at the McDade Administration building with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to The Trentonian. Colleagues told the newspaper that Santiago showed no signs of any problems when he reported for work on Wednesday morning.
Santiago had been with the department since 2004, according to a statement from Mercer County Sheriff Jack Kemler. Before that, he had been with the Trenton Police Department.
"Our hearts break when a law enforcement officer in our community dies under any circumstances," Kemler said. "I know that all of our Sheriff's Officers feel a terrible loss today."
The impact of Santiago's death was felt outside of his department as well. A Facebook post by the Princeton Police Department said that the "Mercer County law enforcement community was rocked to its core" by the announcement of Santiago's death. The post called Santiago a "fixture in community policing circles among Mercer County Officers."
State PBA President Pat Colligan also announced Santiago's death on his group's Facebook page. Colligan called Santiago a "great friend to many of us locally and throughout the entire state." The Trentonian reported that Santiago won a unit citation award from the state PBA in 2015 for outstanding performance in the line of duty.
A GoFundMe account was started on Thursday morning to help Santiago's family.
"Anyone who met Pablo knew him to always have a contagious smile, a beautiful spirit, and a kind (and many times silly) word," the page said. "Not only was he a respected pillar of the Mercer County community, and the President of PBA Local 187, but also a sheriff's officer dedicated to his job beyond words, and above all else and most importantly, a devoted friend, husband and father."
The GoFundMe said Santiago left behind a wife and "two beautiful daughters."
"Although nothing can replace his presence in this world, we are hoping to alleviate some of the financial burdens on his family following the tragedy."
Within an hour of being established, the fundraising drive had raised $600 out of a goal of $20,000.
While the holiday season is a time of happiness for many people, the Princeton police post noted that it can also be a "breaking point for many people who face depression or other treated and untreated symptoms that can lead to suicide."
There is a special hotline for members of the law enforcement community who may be thinking about suicide. The number for the Cop-2-Cop hotline is 1-866-COP-2COP. There is also a state suicide prevention hotline. The number for the NJ Suicide Hopeline is 1-855-654-6735.
According to the Cop2Cop website, some of the risk factors for law enforcement officers committing suicide are "access to lethal means" and "occupational stress."
"The most constructive avenues for preventing law enforcement suicides are increasing suicide awareness training, improving access to resources and identifying best practices that law enforcement agencies can emulate," the website said.