Roanoke Police Department identifies officer who died from apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound

Courtesy: Roanoke City Police
Courtesy: Roanoke City Police(WDBJ)
Published: Jul. 28, 2016 at 2:14 PM EDT
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The Roanoke Police Department has identified the officer who died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound Wednesday night at the police station.

Najee Tynes, 29, was found dead just before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday night in a bathroom at the police department.

Virginia State Police has confirmed the suspicious item found at the Roanoke Medical Examiner's Office turned out to be a wad of duct tape found on Officer Najee Tynes's body after he was taken there.

A spokesperson says the tape was put on his ballistics vest and that he had requested a new vest before he killed himself at the Roanoke Police Department Wednesday evening.

Tynes had been with the Roanoke Police Department since Aug. 30, 2011.

According to an online wedding registry for Tynes, he was a retired Military Police Officer in the Airforce. He's also one of the latest cases contributing to a grim statistic.

"Law enforcement suicide or the rates of suicide in law enforcement are probably some of the highest of any other profession," Police Benevolent Foundation Spokesman Tim Reichert said.

It's clear that police officers have a tough job, but few of us ever get the chance to see just how it affects them.

"It's the best-kept secret in this country today," National Police Suicide Foundation Executive Director Robert Douglas said. "Yes siree, it's a major issue and it was a concern of the Justice Department when they put the commission together."

That commission researched police suicides and published the findings in a 2012 report entitled 'Breaking the Silence on Law Enforcement Suicides.' It found something chilling - according to the data in the research provided by the FBI, police suicide deaths were double that of on-the-job traffic crashes or felony assaults.

"There's around 150 (police suicides) a year, and that's just the reported ones," Donna Schulz, a law enforcement suicide prevention educator said. "It's the number one cause of death for law enforcement."

Schulz, Reichert and Douglas all said many times the deaths go unreported or if it is reported, it's misrepresented.

"They're not taking their own lives because they're out working an office job every day, they're taking their own lives because of the things that they see in their job," Reichert said. "So that's something that we need to step up as a society as a whole and start recognizing the sacrifices that these guys are making."

It's impossible to know exactly why each individual officer commit suicide, but their research suggests it's a combination of job stress and the difficult transition from an on-the-clock duty to being a normal family member.

"They see things in one shift that most of us will never see in our lifetime," Reichert said. "And a lot of these officers are not equipped to deal with the emotions and things they face when they see these things"

When it comes to training, the National Police Suicide Foundation estimates of the 18,000 police agencies only about 3% of them train their officers on suicide prevention.

"(People often say) I can not believe that the people that we have to bring security to us and protection to us each and every day are suffering much greater than we can ever imagine," Douglas said.

According to the department, Roanoke City Police Officers receive specific suicide prevention training in four different classes; emotional survival, peer support training, de-escalation training, and crisis intervention training. Officers take these classes in the academy and again through an annual in-service.

"Officers are frequently told they can talk to supervisors and/or peer support if they need anything, or have any concerns about a colleague," Police spokesman Scott Leamon said.

In a statement, the Roanoke Police Department said an internal review of the circumstances is being conducted.

Peer support personnel have been brought in to help assist officers, staff, and dispatchers at the 911 center. The Roanoke Police Department says employees also have options through the Employee Assistance Program.

Badges worn by Roanoke police officers will be shrouded through sundown on the day of Tynes' burial.

Funeral arrangements are pending.