ROUND ROCK, Texas Aug 14 2016 The death of Sgt. Craig Hutchinson, who was found shot in the backyard of his Round Rock home on July 25, has been ruled a suicide.
In an emotional press conference Friday afternoon, Justice of the Peace Bill Gravell said Hutchinson, 54, died from a gunshot wound from his duty weapon that traveled through the palm of his hand and into his head.
“Often I tell families, much like I did Craig’s wife that morning, that I’m writing the last chapter of their loved one’s life,” Gravell said, before announcing the findings of Hutchinson’s autopsy report.
Willie Richards, Commander of the Criminal Investigation Division at the Round Rock Police Department, offered an extensive look into Sgt. Hutchinson’s life and the timeline of events on the morning of his death.
At 1:22 a.m. on Monday, July 25, Hutchinson radioed to Travis County Sheriff dispatch, “Start Round Rock [police] to my 42. They’ve got prowlers in the backyard.” A minute later, Hutchinson radioed, “Two running out the backyard toward the creek.” It was the last contact he made with authorities.
A witness told investigators that at around 1:28 a.m., they heard a single gunshot. The witness did not hear any voices, sounds of an altercation or activity before the shot was fired.
Round Rock police arrived at the house on Oak Meadow Drive in the Cimmaron neighborhood at 1:29 a.m. and called out “officer down” on the radio three minutes later, requesting Williamson County EMS.
Roads were closed, a perimeter was established and a police helicopter was called in what became a manhunt for possible suspects. Sgt. Hutchinson was taken to St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center and pronounced dead there at 2:25 a.m.
On Monday, Aug. 8, the focus of the investigation shifted when “pieces came together” that indicated the sergeant’s death was a suicide.
Cmdr. Richards said Ibuprofen was the only substance detected in Hutchinson’s body. Medical records show he was prescribed an anti-depressant as of September 2015, but none was found in his body.
In 2014 and 2015, Hutchinson was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and stress, Richards said.
Investigators learned Hutchinson’s house was to be auctioned on Aug. 2, 2016 after multiple foreclosure proceedings since 2011. Hutchinson’s vehicle had been repossessed twice, most recently in June.
Anyone in need of help can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
The Round Rock police chief revealed last week that Sgt. Craig Hutchinson died after being shot by his own gun, and they were looking at it being possibly “self-inflicted” or a homicide as the possible causes of death, without elaborating if they believed the possibly self-inflicted wound was intentionally done or not.
Hutchinson was just 42 days away from retiring when he died after 32 years on the force.
Hutchinson’s wife, Vikki McKinney-Hutchinson, says she strongly disagrees with any finding that Hutchinson’s death was a suicide. She released a statement to KXAN Friday, found here.
After thanking Round Rock police for working around the clock, Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton apologized to the citizens of Williamson County “for having to use that many resources to address this particular issue.”
“I know a lot of us are asking why. We probably will never know,” Hamilton said. “I can tell you two weeks before this occurred, Sgt. Hutchinson was in my office talking about how excited he was about retiring and moving to a ranch and tinkering with cattle. And then two weeks later he chose to take his life.”
Hamilton said he was going to do everything he could to let his deputies know that life is precious. “I wish I would have told ‘Hutch’ that. I didn’t. But I was able to tell him before he left my office that ‘I love you,’” the sheriff said. “So if any good thing came out of this I did tell him that I love him, and I think he knew that.”
Justice of the Peace Gravell later took to the podium to say the sheriff does not owe the people of Williamson County an apology. “This is what our officers have been commissioned and asked to do every day of their life,” he said. “Sheriff, we would do this every day of our life in Williamson County until we have evidence that leads us in another direction.”
To help surviving families, most cities and counties offer employee retirement and pension plans. These benefits — accrued over a career of public service — can be passed along to a spouse no matter how that employee dies, a spokesman for the Texas County and District Retirement System says.
Experts say it is important to know exactly how members of the force die because the cause of death is directly linked to benefits for the fallen officer’s family. Now that Hutchinson’s death has been ruled a suicide, his family will not likely qualify for state and federal death benefits, according to state law. A special state fund provides $500,000 for the families of officers who die on the job. An additional $300,000 is available in federal benefits. Free state college tuition and stipends are made available for surviving children as well.
For law enforcement, there are other avenues of compensation. Police union group, TMPA offers a $10,000 death benefit to members. The president of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, or CLEAT, tells KXAN the organization immediately pays $15,500 to a fallen officer’s family.
Executives at charitable organizations such at the 100 Club of Central Texas and the Sheriff’s Memorial & Benevolent Society of Travis County tell KXAN News they have either already contributed donations to Hutchison’s surviving family members or plan to regardless of how his life ended.
Symbolically, Sgt. Hutchison’s name will no longer be posted on the Officer Down Memorial Page.
“His memorial will be removed from ODMP,” confirmed ODMP President Chris Cosgriff. “Although this is an extremely rare occurrence, it has happened once before. In September 2015 Lt. Joe Gliniewicz, of the Fox Lake (Illinois) Police Department, committed suicide that was staged to make it appear that he was murdered in the line of duty. Once the determination was made that his death was in fact a suicide his memorial was removed.”
As well, the marker at the Texas Peace Officers’ Memorial wall at the Capitol Complex will not bear Hutchison’s name, according to CLEAT which oversees the monument.