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CHICAGO -- An off-duty Chicago Police officer shot himself to death Monday morning after turning his gun on his two young children, killing one of them and leaving the other critically injured, authorities said.
People who knew the officer said he'd been depressed over a divorce from the children's mother, but they were still surprised by the shootings.
"We knew about his problems, but every time he talked about his kids he would have a smile on his face,'' said a woman who would only give her first name, Mari, and said she is related to the officer's partner. "He was so proud of his job. He was a great cop. I can't believe he would do something like this, especially to his kids.''
The four-year officer and the two children, 7 and 9, were found inside a bedroom in a home in the 2700 block of West 43rd Street after someone called police to report shots fired there.
Responding officers also were told the officer -- whose name was not immediately released -- had barricaded himself inside the home and was holding his children hostage, a source said. The officers and the SWAT team members heard noises and entered the home using a "flash bang device," police said.
Inside, officers found the victims behind a closed bedroom door, the source said. The officer, 29, was found on the bed, as was his 7-year-old daughter, who was killed, a source said. The officer's 9-year-old son was found on the floor.
Officers quickly scooped up the children and rushed them out of the house.
CALLED 'DOMESTIC DISPUTE'
The officer suffered a fatal self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head, department spokeswoman Monique Bond said.
It appears the officer shot the children, according to preliminary reports. There were two guns on the scene.
The boy was shot in the back of his head, a source said. His sister was shot in the front of her head and suffered a defensive wound, suggesting she tried to shield herself, the source said. The boy is being treated at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Police officials described the incident as a "domestic dispute" and did not provide further details about what led to the shooting. The officer and his former wife divorced three years ago, according to police officials. He was assigned to the Englewood District but was detailed out to an area team, officials said.
The officer previously had worked for a year as a Cook County sheriff's officer.
His former wife was not in the home at the time of the shooting.
Neighbor Dan Herold said he heard a commotion, and then saw the officer's home surrounded by police.
"I heard people screaming and yelling,'' Herold said. "I looked out my bedroom window, and I saw the place surrounded by cops from all sides.''
Herold said he was not aware his neighbor was a cop, but he had seen the kids playing in the neighborhood. "Why would somebody do that?" he asked.
The officer's children attended St. Procopius Catholic elementary school in Pilsen.
"Our school community has been shocked by a senseless tragedy, resulting in the loss of one of our students and injury of another,'' said school principal Adam Dufault. "We will continue to reach out with love and care for all members of our community as we walk together through this.''
Cops and Suicide
- Some studies peg the suicide rate for law officers at 18 per 100,000 people, vs. 11.4 per 100,000 in the general population.
- In his book Police Suicide: Epidemic in Blue, John Violanti cites a Chicago police study that found alcohol abuse in 60 percent of police suicides.
- Male officers 50 and older are at highest risk, Violenti said.