In another tragedy for the NYPD, a veteran police officer died by suicide in his Queens home Wednesday evening, police said — the seventh member of the force to do so in the last 10 weeks and the second in just two days.
The wife of 56-year-old officer Robert Echeverria found him in their Laurelton home with a gunshot wound to the head, a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation confirmed. She called 911 around 6:15 p.m. and he was rushed to a hospital in Manhasset where he was pronounced dead, according to police.
Just after 8 p.m., the NYPD said in a tweet that "We are saddened to announce that the NYPD has suffered another tragedy today with the loss of one of our officers to suicide."
Echeverria spent the past 25 years of his life on the force, officials said. Colleagues were seen draping memorial bunting on the front of the stationhouse where he worked early Thursday. A woman who lived next door to the officer and his family described him as a nice man, and said his death was shocking.
The department encouraged all who were struggling to seek help and know that support was available from people who "care about your well-being."
The NYPD has experienced a tragic rash of police suicides recently, with seven members of the force dying by suicide in just the last 10 weeks and nine total in 2019.
"We are hurting right now, it’s been a very tough year," said NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea on Thursday. "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."
Echeverria's death marked the second time in two days a member of the NYPD was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, escalating a recent crisis that has caused all levels of police leadership to speak out on the need for cops to look after their mental health and that of their colleagues.
Early Tuesday, an off-duty NYPD officer died by suicide at his home in Yonkers. Police sources told News 4 the officer had been identified as 35-year-old Johnny Rios.
Rios had seven years on the job and was most recently posted to the Bronx. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the source added.
"The NYPD suffered another tragedy today with the loss of another officer to suicide. To those who may be facing struggles - Help is always available, you are not alone," the department tweeted, roughly two hours after news of the officer's death first emerged.
These most recent officers' deaths follow the June 5 suicide of Deputy Chief Steven Silks, the June 6 death of Det. Joseph Calabrese, the June 14 death of 29-year-old Officer Michael Caddy at the 121st Precinct in Staten Island, the June 27 death of Officer Kevin Preiss at his Long Island home and the July 27 death of Sergeant Terrance McAvoy at his Staten Island home.
In June, after the deaths of Silks and Calabrese a day apart, Commissioner James O'Neill spoke exclusively with News 4 about the need for cops to seek help if they find themselves contemplating taking their own lives.
"To have two people kill themselves within 10 hours is just - nothing brings us to our knees, but this is close," O'Neill said.
He also sent a note to all 55,000 officers and civilian employees of the NYPD, saying in part, "before you can take care of others, it's imperative that you first take care of yourselves. Seeking help is never a sign of weakness -- it's a sign of great strength."
The officers' deaths come after News 4 highlighted growing concerns among members of law enforcement regarding police suicides. An I-Team survey of police across the country found 78% experienced critical stress on the job, with 68% saying that stress triggered unresolved emotional issues.
Sixteen percent said that they had thoughts of suicide. Despite those numbers nine out of 10 officers said there is a stigma attached to seeking help.
"This has to be a continuous process. This has to be done at roll calls. This has to be done in video training," O'Neill said. "We need to talk about this. This can’t be a deep dark secret. People have to understand that there is help available."
O'Neill has asked NYPD officers and employees who need help to call the department's employee assistance hotline at 646-610-6730.
For more on the NYPD suicide crisis tune in to the latest episode of ‘The Debrief’ podcast. NBC 4’s David Ushery speaks with reporter Pei-Sze Cheng on how stigma and fear of repercussions within the NYPD is stopping cops with mental health problems from coming forward. Listen on Apple podcasts here or on all other devices here.
More recent coverage:
- Fifth NYPD Officer Dies by Suicide in Two Months
- Fourth NYPD Officer Dies by Suicide in Three Weeks
- Officer Takes Life Outside Staten Island Stationhouse
- NYC's Top Cop Speaks on Mental Health After NYPD Suicides
- Missing NYPD Homicide Detective Found Dead by Suicide
- NYPD Deputy Chief With 38 Years of Service Takes His Own Life
If you or someone you know is in a crisis, including at risk of suicide or self-harm, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Trained counselors are available 24/7.