Richland County, SC (WLTX) - Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says one of his deputies, Derek Fish, died by suicide late last week.
Lott held an at times emotional news conference Monday afternoon to discuss the death of 28-year-old Derek Fish. Lott said he'd spoken with Fish's family, and they were okay with the sheriff discussing the death, as part of an effort to raise awareness about suicide.
"We're all still struggling to learn why," Lott said.
According to the Sheriff, Fish worked his normal shift Friday, and clocked out around 6 p.m. It had been a normal day, with routine service calls and one arrest. However, Fish returned to his regional headquarters at Denny Terrace Elementary School, parked, and killed himself with his service weapon.
"I failed on Friday," Lott said, his voice cracking briefly. "My job is to protect these guys, and that's physically and mentally."
Fish had joined the department in 2011, and had worked himself up through the ranks, and just last week, had learned that he was being promoted to master deputy.
"His dream was to be on the job," Lott said.
Fish had also been a staff sergeant with the base security group at McEntire Joint Guard Base, and had been deployed once.
"Derek was a fine young man," Lott said. "Very energetic young man...just about everyone in the sheriff's department knew and love him."
His nickname was "Nemo."
Lott said the death came without warning.
"We don't know of anything that could have triggered this," Lott said.
Lott said this is the third suicide his department has had in his 20 years as sheriff, and the first since 2007. Lott says he'll look at further procedures to try and help officers and prevent these types of tragedies from ever happening.
"In our department we've got a lot of healing to do, and we're going to move forward, but we're not going to forget what he did."
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 741-741 for free, 24/7 support from a trained counselor.