The New York City Police Department lost one of its own on Wednesday after an off-duty officer died by apparent suicide in Laurelton, according to multiple reports.
The New York Post first reported that 56-year-old Robert Echeverria’s wife found him at home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound just past 6 p.m. on Aug. 14. Emergency response personnel rushed Echeverria to North Shore University Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
QNS reached out to police, who have not yet confirmed the veteran officer’s identity. Reports said that he worked for the NYPD’s Strategic Response Team and had been with the department for 25 years.
His death comes one day after another 35-year-old Officer Johnny Rios took his life at his Yonkers home. Nine police officers have died by suicide this year. Earlier this year, Deputy Chief Steven Silks — a 38-year NYPD veteran — killed himself in Forest Hills days before his mandatory retirement.
NYPD issued a message on Twitter offering support for fellow police officers.
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. pic.twitter.com/Va0v3aNkl5
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) August 13, 2019
“Tonight our city mourns a tragedy. We won’t let anyone struggle alone. I want every one of New York’s Finest to know we are here for you. We value you. Help is available. Please reach out,” said Mayor de Blasio in a Tweet on Wednesday evening.
Police Commissioner James O’Neil said that more needs to be done to protect police officer mental health following trauma they face on the job.
“Many in the criminal-justice reform movement call for cops & prosecutors to do more to take account of the trauma experienced by suspects. It’s time for NYers — who reap the benefits of a once-unfathomable crime decline — to do the same for our police,” O’Neill said on Twitter.
In July, the NYPD launched a suicide prevention task force with peer teams who started visiting each precinct. O’Neil said that 800 NYPD staff members will begin retraining in August with mental health, stress and suicide experts.
On Thursday, Attorney General Letitia James issued the following statement about Echevarria’s death:
“For the ninth time this year, we are struggling with the loss of another member of the NYPD. Officer Robert Echeverria was a 25-year veteran of the NYPD, a man who dedicated his career to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of New Yorkers. While we mourn the death of Officer Echeverria and the eight other members of the NYPD who have taken their lives, we must confront the real mental health crisis we are facing. I am committed to working with the NYPD and mental health organizations to ensure that the men and women of the NYPD have access to the resources and support they need.”
The NYPD provided a list of resources police officers can use. Law enforcement can text BLUE to 741741, and non-law enforcement can text TALK to the same number. Support is also available at nyc.gov/nycwell.
For NYPD-specific help, call the Employee Assistance Unit at 646-610-6730, the Chaplains Unit at 212-473-2363 or POPPA at 888-267-7267.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The network provides free emotional support for people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Individuals can call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Edited at 12:35 p.m. to reflect Letitia James’ statement.