The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department issued a statement Tuesday after one former and three current Sheriff’s Department employees killed themselves Monday.
A source close to the investigation indicated the deaths are believed to be unrelated.
Department officials refused to answer questions Monday afternoon after news of the death of Cmdr. Darren Harris was posted to the coroner’s office website. Sheriff’s Information Bureau officials referred information requests to the Homicide Bureau, which did not respond to requests for comment regarding the status of the investigations.
Sheriff Robert Luna issued a prepared statement via email through a spokesperson Tuesday afternoon.
“Our LASD family has experienced a significant amount of loss and tragedies this year,” Luna’s statement said. “We are stunned to learn of these deaths, and it has sent shockwaves of emotions throughout the department as we try and cope with the loss of not just one, but four beloved active and retired members of our department family. During trying times like these it’s important for personnel regardless of rank or position to check on the well-being of other colleagues and friends. I have the deepest concern for our employees’ well-being, and we are urgently exploring avenues to reduce work stress factors to support our employees’ work and personal lives.”
Harris was formerly spokesman for the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station and was then promoted to a lieutenant in the Sheriff’s Information Bureau, and then a captain who led the department’s transportation services. Department sources reported he was a commander at the time of his death.
Harris reportedly died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head around 10:30 a.m. at his home in Santa Clarita.
The second incident involved Greg Hovland, who had retired from the LASD. He was a longtime sergeant in the Antelope Valley and was found dead Monday at his home in Quartz Hill. The medical examination had not been completed as of Tuesday afternoon.
There was another suicide reported at 4 p.m. Monday in Stevenson Ranch. LASD sources said the woman, age 60, was a custody assistant at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic.
The coroner’s office said the name is not being released pending the notification of the person’s next of kin.
At 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, homicide detectives responded to another death of a current employee to a local hospital in the city of Pomona. That person is believed to have worked in custody at the North County Correctional Facility in the maximum-security portion of the Pitchess jail, according to a source in the department who was not authorized to discuss the incident.
“The Sheriff’s Department is beyond saddened to learn of the deaths involving four LASD employees, one retired and three current members of the department. The Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau is investigating all four deaths. On (Monday) at approximately 10:30 a.m., Homicide Bureau responded to a death in Valencia. Later in the afternoon, detectives responded to a death at 12:53 p.m. in Lancaster and later in the evening at 5:40 p.m. in Stevenson Ranch,” read the statement shared Tuesday afternoon by Nicole Nishida, spokeswoman for the LASD.
“Out of respect for their grieving families, we will not be disclosing the names of the employees at this time. Homicide detectives and the county of Los Angeles Medical Examiner will continue to investigate each incident independently,” Nishida’s statement continued.
“Our deepest sympathies and thoughts are with the families and friends of each of these individuals. The department Psychological Services Bureau and the Injury and Health Support Unit continues to comfort and provide resources to the families during this tragic time. The department offers free, confidential counseling through our Psychological Services Bureau who are available 24/7 to provide help and guidance to personnel and their families during challenging times. Additionally, the department has a Peer Support Program that members can use for additional assistance.”