Crime & Courts

Richland deputy commits suicide in patrol car while on duty

Richland County deputy commits suicide in patrol car while on duty

Richland County sheriff's deputy Derek Fish killed himself with his weapon in his patrol car after his shift Friday, July 28, 2017, Sheriff Leon Lott announced Monday.
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Richland County sheriff's deputy Derek Fish killed himself with his weapon in his patrol car after his shift Friday, July 28, 2017, Sheriff Leon Lott announced Monday.

A Richland County sheriff’s deputy killed himself using his service weapon in his cruiser while on duty Friday afternoon, Sheriff Leon Lott announced Monday.

Senior Deputy Derek Fish, 28, shot himself with his department-issued gun in his patrol car Friday, Lott said. After finishing his shift, the deputy drove his patrol car back to Region 3 headquarters on Bishop Avenue and parked behind the building, where he is believed to have shot himself between 6:30 and 8 p.m. Another deputy found him.

“We’re all struggling to try to understand why, and we don’t have an answer,” Lott said at a Monday news conference to discuss Fish’s death and suicide prevention, a move approved by the deputy’s family. “He didn’t leave a note, he didn’t communicate with anybody what his intentions were. For all purposes, that shift was a normal shift.”

Fish, who was known as “Nemo” in the department, joined the agency in May 2011, Lott said. He worked his way up the ranks and was promoted last week to master deputy.

Lott said Fish, who was known for his energetic personality and smile, had not dealt with any major or traumatic events recently.

Fish’s death – the third suicide of a Richland deputy in 20 years and the first since 2007 – hits on a dark and often undiscussed issue in police agencies around the country, Lott said.

Each year, more police officers die by suicide than are killed in the line of duty, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

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The Sheriff’s Department has a psychologist and chaplains on staff and requires pre-PTSD training for all its officers that includes a section on suicide prevention. But Lott said the best way to prevent suicides is talking about it.

“The family and I discussed it and said it’s time to stop this,” Lott said.

“We have people amongst us that have issues that we just don’t see,” he said. “Sometimes when they cry for help, we don’t answer that cry. We have to answer that cry.”

Fish’s funeral will be at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Bethlehem Baptist Church Family Life Center, 1028 Eastman St., Columbia. It is open to the public.

S.C. suicide prevention hotlines

Aiken: Help Line of Aiken County: (803) 648-9900

Charleston: Dorchester Mental Health Center: (843) 414-2350

Columbia: United Way of the Midlands Help Line: 2-1-1

Greenville: Mental Health America of Greenville County CRISISline: (864) 271-8888

Nationally: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

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