Cops see suicide scenes far too often. As a road officer, I responded to my fair share. As a PIO, I respond to more than I care to.
My job during critical incidents is to be a voice from the police department to the news media. I don’t want to provide incorrect information, and third or fourth-hand information is not always 100% correct. So, like most PIOs, I respond to each and every critical incident scene I can. I view the evidence, take in the situation which allows me to provide the most accurate information to the media.
As a general rule, most media outlets self-censor when it comes to suicide. Unless the person is high-profile or the suicide occurred in a public place, most reporters won’t touch it. But still – I find myself at most of the scenes because I’m a proactive PIO. I would rather spend all day being prepared than be under prepared at all.
Last Tuesday morning, January 6th, I was sitting in my office and heard a radio call dispatched. A wife had found her husband committed suicide on the balcony of their apartment. I listened to the call, read the notes and decided not to respond. I am still very thankful for that decision. Officers responded and handled the situation and I moved along to the next bit of work I was doing and didn’t think any more about the call.
A bit later, I heard one of our detectives check out over the radio at Zoe’s Kitchen for a notification on the above-mentioned suicide. Almost at the same moment, my bud Matt came down the hallway to check on lunch plans.
“Zoes?” he asked. “Hang on – I think I just heard 537 check out there for a notification” I replied. “I’ll call her real quick” Matt said.
“She said it’s the manager” Matt told me with a sigh. I look up the name in the call notes and pulled up an ID photo.
My heart sank.
If you never had the pleasure of meeting Jason Dach at Zoe’s Kitchen or anywhere for that matter, you missed out. I usually eat there with a group of our detectives about twice a week. You can find members of GPD’s Command Staff there frequently also. Jason was a fixture there. He would greet you with the biggest smile and literally would thank us for being cops and doing our jobs to keep everyone safe each time he saw us.
I’m the kind of guy that always cleans up for myself at a restaurant…but Jason would have NONE of that! It became a game for me to try and get him distracted after I finished my (always delicious) meal so I could run and put my dishes away. More often than not, Jason would play the game better than me…I would lose track of him and by the time I realized it – he was pulling my dishes out from under me. I would say thanks, but he would always say “You serve me out there…it’s my turn to serve you while you’re here.” Jason never knew what had happened in our days prior to seeing him. Some of those days were horrible…but his constant smile and friendly exchange lifted our spirits and made us forget the call we had just worked.
I keep thinking…how did I miss the signs? I’m a trained professional…how could a person that was so depressed put up such a front? What could I have done to save his life? Those questions will haunt me. Jason obviously felt comfortable around us, and I just wish he had said something…given us just a glimpse of what was happening. I know that work and personal lives are separate, but I just really wish Jason had let his guard down just for a split-second while we were in his presence. I know that any of us would have dropped everything to talk with him. He hid his pain well from the world. Too well.
Suicide ended Jason’s life and his problems…but his loss now resonates with a lot of people. I don’t think he knew how many people he touched through his work. I don’t blame him and I don’t think it’s selfish or cowardly – I just wish it could have been prevented.
Suicide affects so many people. If you know anyone that is dealing with serious depression or has suicidal thoughts, get them help immediately. There are a wealth of resources available in our area:
The Alachua County Crisis Center:
National Suicide Hotline:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
To Jason’s friends and family – I’m so deeply sorry for your loss. I only got to experience his presence for a short time, and I’m envious that you had such a caring person in your family.
For Jason – I wish I had known. RIP, my friend.