DALLAS – Investigators have determined that a Texas sheriff’s deputy found dead at his home after notifying dispatchers of prowlers in his yard killed himself.
Travis County sheriff’s Sgt. Craig Hutchinson was suffering from depression and facing foreclosure on his home and other financial pressures, authorities announced at a news conference Friday.
Round Rock police Chief Allen Banks had announced last week that the gunshot that killed Hutchinson came from his own service weapon, but investigators couldn’t conclusively say whether he killed himself. Developments in the case this week, including signs that Hutchinson was suffering from stress and anxiety, led authorities to rule out that others were responsible for his death, according to Round Rock police Cmdr. Willie Richards.
The gunshot that killed Hutchinson, 54, went through the palm of his hand and struck him in the head. He was weeks away from retirement following a 32-year career with the sheriff’s office.
“We’re going to put something in place to prevent something like this from happening again,” Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton said.
Hamilton, who struggled Friday to compose himself, pledged to put measures in place that identify sheriff’s personnel who may be suicidal and provide help.
Hutchinson’s death July 25 prompted a flurry of speculation as it came amid the fatal shootings of five police officers in Dallas and the ambush and killing of three law enforcement officers in Louisiana. His memorial service drew thousands and prompted officials to close several avenues for a long procession of vehicles to the service.
The case has similarities to the death last September of Fox Lake, Illinois, police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz. In both cases, the officers told dispatchers about suspicious characters before they were found shot and each incident led to broad police responses. In the case of Gliniewicz, authorities allege that he had been embezzling funds from a youth program he ran and that, fearing it would be exposed, he killed himself and tried to make it look like someone else killed him.
No one has alleged any wrongdoing by Hutchinson, who was remembered as a “gentle giant” and man of his word.
Richards said Hutchinson previously had two vehicles repossessed and faced foreclosure proceedings on his Round Rock home, north of Austin, beginning in 2011. It appears he and his wife were able to retain the home but foreclosure warnings continued, including just weeks before his death.
Hamilton said Hutchinson’s death left his department stunned. Hutchinson had told the sheriff earlier in the month how excited he was for retirement and how he wanted to move to a ranch and purchase cattle.
Detectives investigating his death processed more than 150 pieces of evidence, canvassed some 250 homes and chased down more than 100 tips. Hutchinson had notified dispatchers in the early hours of July 25 that two suspects were trying to break into a backyard shed. But officials said Friday there didn’t appear to be anything taken from the shed or any indication of forced entry.
“I want to apologize to the citizens of Williamson County to have to use that many resources to address this particular issue,” Hamilton said.
Williamson County Justice of the Peace Bill Gravell Jr., the official who certified that the sergeant killed himself, said suicide is one of the leading manners of death he investigates.
“We need to be more aggressive and open in talking about this topic,” he said.
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