The two Florida deputies who committed suicide within days of each other, leaving their 1-month old son an orphan, had both been honored for saving people’s lives, according to reports.
St. Lucie County Deputy Clayton Osteen died Jan. 2 and Deputy Victoria Pacheco took her life “in the wake of Deputy Osteen’s death,” Sheriff Ken Mascara said in a statement this week.
Osteen, 24, who served in the US Marines, was awarded Deputy of the Year in 2020, a year after joining the department, WPTV reported, citing his personnel records.
He also saved someone’s life after performing CPR on a person who overdosed on drugs, according to the news outlet.
Pacheco, 23, who joined the force in 2020, received an award last year for her involvement in also saving someone who overdosed on drugs, the station added.
“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,” a statement says on a GoFundMe page 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,” it continues.
“Baby Jayce now needs the support of community and country to help provide for him going forward,” it adds.
In his statement, Mascara said his office responded to a call just before midnight on New Year’s Eve and found that Osteen, who was off duty, had tried to kill himself.
His family removed him from life support Sunday, Mascara said. On Tuesday, the office learned of Pacheco’s suicide, although the sheriff didn’t specify when she died.
“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 said.
On Wednesday, grief counselors spent several hours at the agency, according to WPTV.
“It’s devastating. It really is. When one of us hurts, we all hurt,” retired police officer Dana Bennett told the outlet.
The former cop is among the many friends, relatives and law enforcement officers who wonder if the stresses of the job played a part in the couple’s decisions to take their lives.
“People don’t understand what we take home with us,” said Bennett, who
retired from his New Jersey agency in the 1990s and now volunteers for COPLINE.
“We’re not counselors. We’re active listeners,” Bennett told WPTV. “We could spend 15 minutes, five minutes, we could spend two hours on the phone with some people.”
He said that on average, 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 told the station.
On Wednesday, the office of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said his administration has taken steps to support first responders.
First lady Casey DeSantis and the state Department of Children and Families announced that nearly $5 million from the Federal Crisis Counseling Program would be distributed to provide crisis counseling through helplines, DeSantis’s press secretary Christina Pushaw said.
Casey DeSantis also recently announced that $12 million will go toward expanding mental health services for first responders, WPTV said.