Two Florida deputies who had just had a child together committed suicide within days of one another earlier this week, leaving a one month-old son orphaned.
St. Lucie County Deputy Clayton Osteen committed suicide on December 31, ultimately dying on January 2, and his partner Deputy Victoria Pacheco killed herself “in the wake of Deputy Osteen’s death,” Sheriff Ken Mascara said in a statement.
WPTV reported that Osteen, 24, was a veteran of the United States Marines who was awarded Deputy of the Year in 2020. He once saved someone’s life after performing CPR on a person who overdosed on drugs.
Pacheco, 23, who joined the police force in 2020, was given an award last year for her involvement in also saving someone who overdosed on drugs.
“Clayton and Victoria were joy-filled, first-time parents excited about their growing family, enamored with their baby Jayce, and so in love with each other,” reads a GoFundMe page that was set up for the child. “Tragically, for reasons completely unknown and totally out of character, Clayton took his own life December 31st, 2021. Reeling from the shock of loss, Victoria took her own life two days later. Baby Jayce now needs the support of community and country to help provide for him going forward.”
Sheriff Mascara said that his office responded to a call just before midnight on New Year’s Eve and found that Osteen had attempted suicide while he was off duty. His family decided to remove him from life support on January 2, and two days later, his office learned that Pacheco had committed suicide as well.
“While it is impossible for us to fully comprehend the private circumstances leading up to this devastating loss, we pray that this tragedy becomes a catalyst for change, a catalyst to help ease the stigma surrounding well-being and normalize the conversation about the challenges so many of us face on a regular basis,” Mascara continued.
Grief counselors reportedly spent hours at the agency on Wednesday.
Red Voice Media spoke with Founder and President of the crisis line and support service for first responders Safe Call Now, Sean Riley. “Every suicide is a brutal loss,” he said, because we are robbed of the gifts those who died by suicide had to offer this world. Trust me, they all had gifts.”
“It’s devastating. It really is. When one of us hurts, we all hurt,” said retired police officer Dana Bennett. “People don’t understand what we take home with us. We’re not counselors. We’re active listeners. We could spend 15 minutes, five minutes, we could spend two hours on the phone with some people.”
Bennett went on to explain that about one of every eight calls he gets is from someone who might be considering harming themselves.
“We’ve seen the increase in suicides in the police officers … we’ve had a big uptick,” Bennett said.
“Help is always available,” said Riley, “especially when you think there’s no one out there who cares. There is…there always is.”
If you are struggling, RVM encourages you to reach out for help. For police and other first responders, Safe Call Now is 24/7, nationwide, and always confidential. Give them a call at (206) 459-3020.