The father of Avielle Richman, one of 20 first-grade students and six educators killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook School shooting, was found dead of an apparent suicide at Edmond Town Hall early Monday, police said.
The death of Jeremy Richman, 49, appears to be suicide, police said, but the office of the chief medical examiner is investigating the exact cause of death.
Richman was found by an electrician working in the Main Street building about 7 a.m., police said.
“This is a heartbreaking event for the Richman family and the Newtown Community as a whole, the police department’s prayers are with the Richman family right now, and we ask that the family be given privacy in this most difficult time,” said Lt. Aaron Bahamonde, a spokesman for the department.
Richman, who led the charge on mental health issues with his wife in the wake of the shooting, had an office for the Avielle Foundation at Edmond Town Hall. The foundation is dedicated to pushing for “brain science research” to attempt to discover the reasons behind some individuals’ murderous actions.
Weeks after the shooting, Richman and others went to the Connecticut state legislature calling for fixing a broken mental health care system and removing the stigma from psychiatric illness. “We must act to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” he told lawmakers in the January 2013 hearing.
Those who knew him said Richman remained dedicated to this mission.
“He had such a clear purpose of what he wanted to do to honor his daughter,” said a family member of one of the Sandy Hook shooting victims. “I’m just shocked. I’m sitting in my car right now crying. The foundation was doing really important work and was doing such good things.”
Richman left his job as a researcher at the pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim to dedicate himself to the mission of the foundation.
This month, Richman hosted an event at Edmond Town Hall with a researcher, Brene Brown, focused on vulnerability and courage. It was the third one he had organized and was attended by other Sandy Hook families.
Richman spoke last week at Florida Atlantic University’s 2019 Violence Summit.
Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, was among the victims, said he got to know Richman well.
“He was a brokenhearted person, as we all are,” Heslin told The Courant. “It’s sad. Just no words.”
Heslin said the grief never goes away. “I’m not suicidal, but I can definitely see how some people would be that way with the traumatic loss,” Heslin said. “I know Jeremy struggled.”
In the past week, two Parkland, Florida, school shooting survivors died from apparent suicides, spurring immediate calls for increased mental health resources for those impacted by these shootings.
Richman’s daughter, Avielle, was one of the 20 first-grade students killed when Adam Lanza opened fire in the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. Six educators were also killed.
Just minutes after leaving a forum in New Britain about gun violence in schools, Sen. Richard Blumenthal was told of Richman’s death.
“My heart breaks for this family, which has already endured so much,” he said. “This is a gut punch. I came to know his family after Sandy Hook, I attended the funeral. My prayers go out to them.”
Richman’s loss shows how the pain of a tragedy like the Sandy Hook shooting can go on long afterward, he said.
“The cascading harm done by that savage, unspeakable act reminds us of the trauma that’s caused – and the after-effects,” he said.
When asked what Richman’s suicide says about the struggle between gun control and Second Amendment rights, Blumenthal replied that it’s too early to say.
“We have no idea as to what precipitated this death,” he said. “Right now my thoughts and heart are with the family. “
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, who has been an outspoken proponent for stricter gun laws since the Newtown shooting, was devastated by the news, saying he had just seen Richman in recent weeks.
“My god. This is awful, horrible, devastating news. Jeremy was a good friend and an unceasing advocate for better research into the brain’s violence triggers. He was with me in my office two weeks ago, excited as could be about the Avielle Foundation’s latest amazing work,” Murphy said on social media.
Richman and his wife, Jennifer Hensel, were among the Sandy Hook families who filed a lawsuit against Infowars host Alex Jones, who long claimed on his show that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax.
©2019 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)