Officer who died by suicide at police HQ was 'great investigator'

Det. Thomas Roberts, 35, was found dead by suicide Friday afternoon at the Ottawa police headquarters on Elgin Street.

Det. Thomas Roberts, 35, was found dead Friday afternoon

Thomas Roberts, 35, was part of a team of officers who ran into a burning building in 2018 and fought a fire to rescue a man. He was awarded a special commendation for the act. (Ottawa police )

An Ottawa police officer who died by suicide Friday at police headquarters was a "great investigator and great detective," the force's interim chief says. 

Interim Chief Steve Bell said police received a call Friday afternoon about an officer in distress at their Elgin Street headquarters, and when they arrived, he was found dead. 

Bell identified the officer Saturday as Det. Thomas Roberts.

Roberts, 35, joined Ottawa police from the RCMP in 2016. He worked as a patrol officer before joining the robbery unit 18 months ago.

He leaves behind his wife and a nine-month-old child. 

Steve Bell, interim police chief, said they're providing support to Roberts' family and members of the force following his death. (Kimberley Molina/CBC )

'So challenging' to understand

In 2018, Roberts received a chief's commendation after he was part of a team of officers who ran into a burning building to rescue a man.

Bell said he spent Saturday speaking with officers who knew Roberts and worked with him. 

"It's a pretty consistent picture of a great officer that's coming out. He was described as charismatic, energetic and known for his hard work on the road and helping people solve problems when they're in crisis. And [he] was known as a great investigator and a great detective in the robbery unit," Bell said.

"That's what makes this so challenging for us to comprehend and understand as we move ahead." 

Flags at the police headquarters have been lowered at half mast for the officer. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

'We do a tough job' 

Bell said the force is reaching out to its officers who are both on and off-duty today to make sure they know what supports are available to them. 

"We do a tough job. We ask people to go out and do an extremely tough job every single day, and we know it has a toll on them," he said.

When tragedies like this happen, it's a sign more needs to be done to support officers' mental health, Bell said.

Peter Sloly, who will be taking command as the force's next chief in October, expressed his condolences to the officer's family online. 

Roberts' death comes close to the five-year anniversary of the suicide of another officer. Staff Sgt. Kal Ghadban took his own life at police headquarters on Sept. 28, 2014.

Need help? Here are some mental health resources:

  • Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)
  • Ottawa Suicide Prevention: 613-238-3311

With files from Kimberley Molina and Yasmine Mehdi