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Cop in NYPD's 10th suicide was Marine, honoree

Officers and firefighters are more likely to die

Officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty, according to a report last year by the Ruderman Family Foundation. Credit: iStock

Linhong Li was a U.S. Marine who deployed for a tour in Iraq. He scored the top grades in his NYPD academy class, earning a graduation award from the department brass.

And he was the NYPD's 10th suicide this year, shooting himself to death in the Queens home he shared with his wife.

On Tuesday night, Li, 33, became the latest fatality in what Police Commissioner James O'Neill has called a “mental-health crisis” among the NYPD's 36,000 police officers.

In what has become a familiar ritual, O’Neill and Mayor Bill de Blasio yet again publicized ways officers in crisis can reach counseling resources.

“Tragically, we have lost another NYPD member to suicide,” O’Neill tweeted Wednesday. "We’re taking great steps to end this mental-health crisis, and we vow to always keep fighting. Please take care of yourselves and regularly check up on your colleagues and loved ones. #StopSuicide."

De Blasio also tweeted Wednesday: "We’ve now lost ten members of the NYPD to suicide this year. We’ll stop at nothing to end this crisis. If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out. Your city is here for you. Please keep this good man, his family and the NYPD in your hearts."

For months, the NYPD has considered ways to identify and reach cops at risk of suicide. The NYPD announced last month the possibility of mandatory mental-health checkups, the rethinking of its prescription-drug policies and plans to dig through personnel data about each of its officers, such as disciplinary records and off-the-job problems, to find cops who might kill themselves.

The effort also includes Matthew Hickey, a retiree from Suffolk County who appears in an NYPD video where he talks about struggling to overcome suicidal thoughts and urges others to seek out help.

Cops and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty, according to a report last year by the Ruderman Family Foundation, which concluded that people in these professions kill themselves at higher rates than in the general population.

Li, who was assigned to the 24th precinct on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, had been promoted to sergeant last year, according to an NYPD spokesman. O'Neill presided over the promotion ceremony, according to an article last year in The Chief-Leader, a local newspaper covering civil service issues.

About 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Li’s wife got home to find her husband in a pool of blood, the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the spokesman said. Li was taken from the home — which is near St. John’s University, in the Fresh Meadows neighborhood of Queens — to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead about a half-hour later.

Li had been a cop since 2012, when he graduated from the academy during a ceremony at Brooklyn's Barclays Center attended by the mayor and police commissioner at the time, Michael Bloomberg and Ray Kelly.

Of his 1,159-member class, Li was among nine graduates to receive special honors. Li received the first-deputy commissioner's award for highest academic average, according to a news release announcing the graduation.

He was previously a member of the NYPD's Cadet Corps, a type of internship for city residents who are enrolled in a four-year college, according to the release, which also cited his military service.

Li's family could not be reached, and his labor union, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, did not return a message Wednesday afternoon seeking comment.

The most recent suicide before Tuesday took place in August when NYPD Officer Robert Echeverria, who grew up in West Islip and lived in Laurelton, Queens, killed himself.

His sister, Eileen Echeverria of West Islip, told Newsday in the days afterward that the department had cleared her brother for duty after a June mental-health evaluation — even though he regularly threatened to harm himself or others.

The NYPD’s chief of detectives, Dermot Shea, did not address Eileen Echeverria’s allegations at the time but acknowledged the department continued to struggle with officer suicides.

Last week, a Nassau County police officer who had been on the force for 27 years killed himself. It was the department's first suicide since May 2017. The officer's name was not disclosed.

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