A prominent and highly respected Hamilton police officer is dead after shooting himself at the central police station.

The officer is Staff Sgt. Ian Matthews, a 25-year veteran of the force who for years was one of its most high-profile investigators. He died in hospital at about 10 p.m. Tuesday, roughly nine hours after the incident. 

A police statement referred to the death as a "sudden death" after the incident at the King William Street station at approximately 1 p.m. A number of sources confirmed to CBC News in Hamilton that the officer shot himself.

Halton cruisers outside Hamilton station after police officer shot

Halton police cruisers sit outside the Hamilton Police Service central station Tuesday, about five hours after a police officer shot himself at the station. Halton police are investigating the incident. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The Hamilton Spectator is reporting the incident happened in a locker-room.

Matthews served in many roles with the service, including extended times in the BEAR (break and enter, auto theft and robbery branch) and homicide units, and most recently as Central D Squad staff sergeant.

"This is devastating and I recognize the profound impact this has on our organization," said Hamilton police Chief Glenn De Caire. "We are supporting Ian's family during this tragic time and our critical incident response team continues to respond to support our members through this tragedy."

The chief acknowledged Matthews's reputation and police record in a statement issued shortly after his death.

"We respect the commitment and tenacity shown by Ian to his work and will work to honour his life with the same dedicated, professional effort that he displayed."

Halton police investigating

Hamilton police had issued a statement earlier in the evening indicating an officer had been injured at the central police station. At that time, police said he had been rushed to hospital in critical condition, but that he was not expected to survive.

De Caire has asked neighbouring Halton Police Service to handle what is a non-criminal investigation.

A police source told CBC News that the officer had been superb at his job — "one of our all-stars."

He was respected by the courts, other officers and even some of the hardened criminals he had arrested, the source said. He had worked in many difficult roles, including undercover work, and seen "things we can only imagine."

Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina said his prayers are with the officer, his family and the entire police service.

"The acceptance of this responsibility carries far greater weight than many can understand," Bratina said. "I expressed the care, concern and sympathy of all Hamiltonians."

The mood at Hamilton police central station will no doubt be grim for some time, according to retired police detective Kevin Bryan, who worked with York Regional Police for 30 years. Four officers died over the course of his time with York police. 

"When a death happens, it's just terrible," Bryan told CBC News. "It makes you realize that you're vulnerable."

"It's very quiet at the station. It's very solemn. It's not a rally point. It's not good."