EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -- A veteran police officer was found inside police headquarters Tuesday morning with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, police said.
Officer Paul Buchanan died of his injuries at Hartford Hospital.
East Hartford police and state police major crimes detectives are investigating the shooting, which was reported at 9:30 a.m.
Buchanan had been an East Hartford police officer since 1989. He worked as a field training officer, a community outreach officer, a fleet and scheduling officer and an investigator in the criminal investigations division. Buchanan was a highly decorated officer with two lifesaving awards, a meritorious service award and several letters of commendation, police said.
Those who know Buchanan were stunned and deeply saddened by the news.
"Everybody should know what a great guy, neighbor, friend, and father he was," said Jerry McGuire, a neighbor in South Windsor. "Everybody should know that. He had a lot of friends and he raised two outstanding sons. He's going to be very greatly missed."
McGuire said that Buchanan loved being a police officer and interacted well with the public.
"If you were going to get pulled over, he was the cop you'd want to pull you over," McGuire said. "He was a very empathetic and understanding guy."
Town council Chairman Rich Kehoe said he didn't know Buchanan personally, but said his death is a tragic loss for the town.
"It's really just too bad, it's bad not only for him but for the whole police force because the police force is a fraternity and people feel deeply when there's a loss like this," Kehoe said. "It'll take awhile I think for people to really recover."
A moment of silence in Buchanan's memory was observed at a town council meeting Tuesday night, and Mayor Marcia Leclerc said town employees are mourning the officer's death.
"We are all shocked to experience the significant loss of an employee, coworker and friend," the mayor said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. East Hartford has lost a decorated and devoted employee. We will miss him and will honor his memory and the significant contributions he has made to our community."
Police Chief Mark Sirois was not available for comment Tuesday, but he spoke about the stress officers faced in 2012 after the suicide of Vernon police Sgt. Daniel Moore.
Officers "build a wall" to distance themselves from the ugliness they see regularly, Sirois said at the time.
"How many dead babies can you go to?" Sirois asked. "How many domestic abuse victims can you see? How many drug overdose victims can you see? How many teenagers can you pull out of a wrecked car?"
Sirois said police officers must be able to decompress and recognize that talking about their troubles and emotions is not a sign of weakness.
"We stress that to our guys all the time -- you're not superman," he said.
Police suicides are on the rise in the state, according to several state police administrators contacted after Moore's death.
Officers who committed suicide in 2011 included New Britain police Capt. Matthew Tuttle, Rocky Hill police Sgt. Leonard Kulas, Southbury Officer Anton Tchorzyk Jr., and Groton City police Lt. Thomas Forbes, who killed himself inside the police department where he worked.
Buchanan's death also echoes that of Glastonbury Officer Thomas M. Gadarowski, who shot himself inside that town's police department in 2000.
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