LOS ANGELES – One retired and three current members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department were all found dead within a 24-hour period beginning Monday, the department confirmed Tuesday.
According to the sheriff’s department, the first agency-related death was discovered at about 10:30 a.m. Monday in Valencia. Detectives responded to a second death at 12:53 p.m. Monday in Lancaster, then to another at 5:40 p.m. Monday in Stevenson Ranch. A fourth death was discovered at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at a Pomona hospital.
The Santa Clarita Valley Signal newspaper, which was the first to report on the cluster of deaths, reported on its website that all four people tied to the department had died by suicide. But a source with knowledge of the investigation told the paper that despite the close timing and locations of the deaths, they appeared to be unrelated.
Cmdr. Darren Harris, reportedly died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head around 10:30 a.m. at his home in Santa Clarita.
The second incident involved Greg Hovland, who had retired from the LASD. He was a longtime sergeant in the Antelope Valley and was found dead Monday at his home in Quartz Hill.
There was another suicide reported at 4 p.m. Monday in Stevenson Ranch. LASD sources said the woman, age 60, was a custody assistant at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic.
At 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, homicide detectives responded to another death of a current employee to a local hospital in the city of Pomona. That person is believed to have worked in custody at the North County Correctional Facility in the maximum-security portion of the Pitchess jail, according to a source in the department who was not authorized to discuss the incident.
“Our LASD family has experienced a significant amount of loss and tragedies this year,” Sheriff Robert Luna said in a statement Tuesday. “We are stunned to learn of these deaths, and it has sent shockwaves of emotions throughout the department as we try and cope with the loss of not just one, but four beloved active and retired members of our department family.
“During trying times like these it’s important for personnel regardless of rank or position to check on the well-being of other colleagues and friends. I have the deepest concern for our employees’ well-being, and we are urgently exploring avenues to reduce work stress factors to support our employees work and personal lives.”
The sheriff’s department noted that it has counseling services available around the clock for department personnel, along with a peer support program. Support services are also being offered to families of the employees who died.
City News Service contributed to this report.