A Montgomery County police officer’s death on Monday morning has been ruled a suicide.
Thomas J. “T.J.” Bomba, 38, was a 13-year veteran of the Montgomery County Police Department. He had a gunshot wound when he was found on the top floor of a Silver Spring parking garage on Monday morning.
He was taken to MedStar Washington Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he was pronounced dead.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said Tuesday night that while Bomba’s death was not officially ruled a suicide on Monday, police and county officials “knew there was evidence that led people to wonder.”
“We didn’t know this was a fact yesterday,” Elrich said. “The guy made a call for help. If we had come out and said, ‘We have questions,’ we’d essentially be saying that he didn’t tell the truth. We didn’t want to do that. … We wanted to be respectful.”
Bomba, who patrolled in the Silver Spring area, had told a dispatcher that he was responding to a report of “disorderly subjects” at the garage after someone flagged him down. Bomba radioed for backup at about 8:49 a.m.
Another officer responded about four minutes later and found Bomba with a gunshot wound. Officers tried to save his life at the scene before he was taken to a hospital.
Police found no witnesses.
Acting Chief Marcus Jones said during a press conference on Monday afternoon that authorities were treating the death as a homicide, but they were not ruling out other possibilities, such as suicide. He said there was no danger to the community.
In a press release on Tuesday evening, police said the D.C. chief medical examiner’s office had ruled that Bomba’s injury was self-inflicted.
Police wrote in the press release that Bomba was wearing a body camera, but it had not been activated.
Montgomery County Council Member Will Jawando called Bomba’s death “tragic,” but questioned why police did not disclose to the public sooner that they thought the officer might have died by suicide. Jawando said he learned of the cause of death Tuesday evening.
“I think it’s important that the police department is upfront with the public,” Jawando said. “I’m glad they got that out, but I would encourage us to look into the circumstances of why we couldn’t have found out sooner.”
Elrich, Jawando and Council President Nancy Navarro on Tuesday night all said they intend to look into ways to increase first responders’ access to mental health support.
Elrich, in his first term as county executive, said he has talked with Jones prior to Bomba’s death about police officers’ mental health resources.
“We need to figure out how we do a better job of supporting them because this is essentially someone who probably didn’t feel he had anybody to talk to and didn’t get the support he needed, so we need to see what to do to improve this,” Elrich said. “This really is a tragic loss. However it happened doesn’t change the tragedy.”
Navarro said she was sad to learn Bomba died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and offered her condolences to the family.
“It is a very difficult thing to have to confront,” she said. “I’m thinking of the police department and the officers and how sad this must be. There’s a lot of sadness.”
Warning sides of suicide:
- Talking about wanting to die
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
If someone exhibits warning signs of suicide:
- Do not leave the person alone
- Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
- Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or Montgomery County 24 Hour Crisis Center at 240-777-4000
- Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from medical or mental health professional
Source: Reportingonsuicide.org; Montgomery County