Posted on 25 September 2012.
Friends and Colleagues Mourn One of Their Own
Friends and colleagues were stunned to learn one of their municipal employees had fatally shot himself inside the Del Norte County Courthouse Sunday.
The Del Norte Sheriff’s Office is still investigating what happened following the apparent suicide of one of its bailiffs. Little information has been released. The Del Norte Triplicate news has yet to report any details about the fatal shooting that occurred inside the normally secure courthouse.
Del Norte County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Bill Steven said 45-year-old Deputy Bailiff Harold Esparza was off-duty when he entered the County Courthouse on Sunday, September 23. Mr. Esparza proceeded to one of the courtroom holding cells, and there, apparently shot himself in the head.
No foul play was involved, and the Del Norte County Coroner has ruled Esparza’s death to be a suicide. An autopsy is scheduled for today.
The Del Norte Sheriff’s Office said Mr. Esparza had given no note, warning, or outward signs of distress prior to his death.
It came as a complete surprise to many. A married father with children, Mr. Esparza was well liked in the community.
Growing up in Crescent City and attending high school there, Esparza participated in many community events over the years. He was a 20-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department and served with the Crescent City Volunteer Fire Department and the Search and Rescue team. Always willing to lend a helpful hand or friendly ear, Esparza assisted many in the community and to those in law enforcement.
Steven called deputy Esparza “a good guy.”
“Harold Esparza was a great deputy, but an even greater man,” said Steven. “He was very popular and well-liked by all who knew him and worked with him.”
Other mourning community residents echoed that sentiment.
“He was a very valued member of our agency and our department,” said Sheriff Dean Wilson. “He had lots of friends inside the department and in the community for which he served.”
“He was probably the nicest guy I have ever known. He was one of those guys who would do anything you asked of him,” said Fire Chief Steve Wakefield. “He is going to be sorely missed by this agency and the community he served.”
Cmdr. Steven said Esparza may have killed himself due to “a combination of stress” and other undisclosed issues.
Depression and suicide are more prevalent in law enforcement than most other professions due to a combination of factors.
Last year, 177 police officers lost their lives in the line of duty while 143 committed suicide, according to the Law Enforcement Suicide Prevention website.
Few law enforcement departments have suicide prevention policies in place– only about 2%, according to one study. Consequently, potentially despondent officers may be reluctant to seek help without such policies offering job protection, support, counseling and guidance.
Services for Mr. Esparza are scheduled Friday morning, September 28, at the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Crescent City.