SAN ANTONIO – A 10-year veteran of the San Antonio Police Department was found dead Tuesday of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head inside his marked patrol unit, police officials said.
The male officer, who was in full uniform, was found just before 7:30 a.m. at Loop 410 and Port Entry on the city's East Side.
According to preliminary information from SAPD, the officer didn't return to a substation after his shift ended at 6:30 a.m., and other officers were sent to investigate. He was found dead in the patrol unit.
Vincent Jordan, a truck driver, said at around 5 a.m. he turned into Port Entry without a signal and saw the patrol car with no lights on and thought he would get pulled over. But the officer just put his brake lights on.
Jordan said when he left a half hour later, the officer was still there and thought it was strange that police would be targeting speeders at that location.
"No officer sat here before," Jordan said. "They sat down there before but never here. That's unbelievable."
SAPD family assistance officers, chaplains, and SAPD psychological services will be available to department members, officials said.
The incident is being investigated as an apparent suicide, officials said.
The leading killer of law enforcement officers is suicide. Click here to see statistics on officer suicides and how to help prevent it.
Social worker discusses impact of suicide on loved ones
Valeria Lerma, a social worker and therapist at the Center for Health Care Services, said suicide is an impulse, but there "usually is a long history of things, and the main thing there is hopelessness."
Lerma said this sort of loss can leave family, friends and co-workers with a range of emotions.
"The tendency (is) to kind of replay the moment, the hours, the day kind of leading up to the loss in an effort to try and see if there were any signs missed, anything they could have said, anything they could have done to prevent it," Lerma said.
She said the natural tendency is for loved ones to try to push the emotions away, but she said that is the worst thing to do.
"Most of the counseling is going to be geared toward allowing the individual to feel safe, in a safe environment, where they can fully experience what it is that they're feeling," Lerma said. "Because the sooner you are able to face those feelings, the sooner you'll be able to deal with them."
The Center for Health Care Services operates a 24-hour crisis hotline. The number to call is 800-316-9241 or 210-223-SAFE (7233).