BAYTOWN, Texas — Baytown police have recovered the body of officer John Stewart Beasley following an extensive search that lasted for nearly five days, investigators announced during a press conference Tuesday morning.
Beasley, 46, was found by Texas Search and Rescue crews around 8:30 a.m. inside an agricultural field less than a mile from his home. He appeared to have died from a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound, BPD Lt. Steve Doris said.
The late officer had more than 23 years of law enforcement experience.
"Obviously, this was not the outcome that we were hoping for," Doris said. "This is all too common in our business. We have officers that work 20 plus years on a daily basis seeing the worse of society and sometimes that takes a toll on people."
Beasley's son was unable to find his father after arriving home at 3:30 p.m. Thursday. The son immediately called around to his dad's police friends for help, and after a short search, Beasley hadn't been found.
Just before 9 o'clock that night, Beasley's wife reached out to the sheriff's office, which brought in two K-9 teams and the Baytown Police Department for a formal investigation.
Investigators recovered surveillance video that showed Beasley coming home at noon Thursday, leading police to believe the officer walked out of his back door and into a wooded area surrounding the residence. While searching the area, canine officers found the officer's cell phone on the ground and the battery removed, leading them to believe that foul play was not to blame.
Beasley's suicide is shocking and hard to accept for the Baytown community but not uncommon for law enforcement. According to a recent study, 140 officers committed suicide in 2017 and 2018 is on course to surpass those numbers.
"We're cops! We are supposed to stand in the face of evil so sometimes it's hard for us to admit that we have a problem. It's hard for us to admit that we're dealing with issues that we can't cope with because we're supposed to be able to cope with anything," Harris County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne said.
According to the national police suicide prevention site, The Badge of Life, cumulative posttraumatic stress disorder is the most common malady seen in emergency responders. Unfortunately, it is subtle in its buildup and complex in its symptomatology, and is usually ignored by the responder and his department until it’s too late.
Suicide rates are also rising worldwide, with some one million people dying annually from suicide. The World Health Organization estimates a global suicide rate of one death every 40 seconds, which by 2020 they predict will increase to one every 20 seconds.
But the BPD wants all officers to know that help is there if it is needed.
"There's no question about it! If a police officer is struggling with stress-related issues or personal issues he should reach out to his employee assistance program and the faith-based chaplains that most all of us have," Hawthorne said.
If you or someone you know might be at risk of suicide, call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It provides free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people in suicidal crisis or distress. You can learn more about its services here, including its guide on what to do if you see suicidal language on social media. You can also call 1-800-273-8255 to talk to someone about how you can help a person in crisis.
For crisis support in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454.
For the TrevorLifeline, a suicide prevention counseling service for the LGBTQ community, call 1-866-488-7386.
Text HOME to 741741 to have a confidential text conversation with a trained crisis counselor from Crisis Text Line. Counselors are available 24/7. You can learn more about how the texting service works here.
For online chat, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides a confidential chat window, with counselors available 24/7.
Getting help around the world
For support outside of the US, a worldwide directory of resources and international hotlines is provided by the International Association for Suicide Prevention. You can also turn to Befrienders Worldwide.
Another way to help is by supporting the nonprofits that provide suicide counseling, prevention and education. Volunteers are needed, and some train to become counselors.