'Together we will grieve': Hillsborough deputy of 23 years dies by suicide at Ruskin home

Help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text to 741-741. The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay can also be reached by dialing 211.

A Hillsborough County deputy, who has been with the agency for over two decades, has taken his own life, the sheriff announced.

On Wednesday, just after 7 p.m., the dispatch center received a 911 call from a relative of Deputy Christopher Former. They said the 49-year-old made suicidal threats to a family member. 

Deputies headed to Former's home in the Mira Lago neighborhood in Ruskin. According to the sheriff's office, they briefly spoke with Former, but then he barricaded himself inside his home.

Negotiators said they tried to get Former out of the home peacefully. After 11 p.m., they made the decision for SWAT team members to enter his house. He was found dead inside from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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Deputy Former was with the sheriff's office for 23 years. He was working as a community resource deputy in Ruskin.

Sheriff Chad Chronister released the following statement: 

"My deepest condolences go out to Deputy Former's family and those that knew and loved him. While this is a very difficult time for our Sheriff's Office family, it is times like this where we rely on each other and the community for support. Together we will grieve and try to make sense of what happened."

The sheriff went on to say that HCSO employees have resources available that includes Peer Support, a professional mental health clinician, including other resources from the agency's insurance provider.

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 to civilians and veterans. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (tel:18002738255). Or text HOME to 741-741 (Crisis Text Line).

CLICK HERE for the warning signs and risk factors of suicide. Call 1-800-273-TALK for free and confidential emotional support.