PORT RICHEY, Fla. (FOX 13) - A deputy with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office has died by suicide, Sheriff Chris Nocco announced Monday. Deputy April Rodriguez used her own service weapon to take her own life.
She leaves behind a husband and three children, the sheriff said.
“I promised her husband one thing…to tell everyone how special April was and that she was deeply loved, that she was a good person with a great heart, and loved her children very much,” Sheriff Nocco offered.
Rodriguez's body was found at her apartment by fellow deputies after she didn't show up for work Sunday.
Nocco said her husband requested privacy. She was with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office for around four years, according to the sheriff, and patrolled the Trinity and Holiday areas.
Rodriguez was featured in one of the department’s regular ‘tweet-along’ social media segments last summer. In one video clip, she referenced her passion for helping children.
“One of my favorite parts of my job is working with kids,” she explained. “I try to interact with them as much as I can and let them know that cops are not somebody that they need to be afraid of, and that we’re always there to help them. And also try to show them that we are positive role models.”
Rodriquez is the fifth Bay Area first responder to commit suicide in recent months.
PTSD expert Dr. Carrie Elk says firefighters, paramedics, and police officers witness death and violence on a daily basis, over the course of years, which can contribute to suicide.
"Every once in a while, memories get stuck that way, so you're dealing with today, but you constantly have that story running in the back of your mind, which you would imagine can make people anxious and depressed," said Dr. Elk.
She said it can be treated if people will seek help.
We don't know if Deputy Rodriquez was suffering from PTSD, but the sheriff said deputies are trained in stress management and counseling is available. Nocco said his most important message was for her children.
"Know that your mom loved you so much," he said. Since last September, first responders at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, and St. Petersburg Fire-Rescue have taken their own lives. Nocco said this is the first suicide of a Pasco deputy in recent memory.
For more information on Dr. Carrie Elk and treatment of PTSD visit www.Elkinstitute.org.
If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (tel:18002738255). Or text to 741-741
CLICK HERE for the warning signs and risk factors of suicide. Call 1-800-273-TALK for free and confidential emotional support.