SAN FRANCISCO - This story discusses sensitive topics and suicide. If you or someone you know needs help, there is help out there. You can call the suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
San Francisco Police sergeant Chris Morris was ordered to surrender his guns — following family struggles and an internal criminal investigation — before turning one of the weapons on himself earlier this week, sources told KTVU on Friday.
The sources — along with family members, friends and neighbors — paint a picture of the 16-year SFPD veteran’s life unraveling before he took the tragic step to end it all.
The high-profile suicide drew a massive police response to the usually quiet Excelsior District and has reverberated through the department, leaving many officers saddened and seeking answers.
So far, the department has released few details about the episode, only issuing a short tribute on social media paying condolences to Morris and his family.
But in the months before his death, Morris was embroiled in a bitter divorce and lost custody of his son as he became increasingly isolated with a disabling back injury inside his home. It had been months since he was on duty, leading colleagues on the force to become concerned about his well-being.
KTVU spoke to officers who described the episode on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak about the matter on the record.
"He was pretty devastated. He had his injury and couldn’t go back," neighbor Larry Shockey recalled outside his home on the 500 block of Moscow Street, next door to where Morris died.
Shockey has been taking care of Morris’ Golden Retriever "Lucky" as the family makes arrangements and grieves. He remembered Morris as a "good guy" and often talked with him through their shared backyard fence.
"We talked across the fence a lot," he said. "He liked the occasional cigar and I do too, so we’d pass cigars back and forth across the fence."
But the man Shockey got to know over the past decade faced demons few saw. In an interview with KTVU, Morris’ father Dennis, described a family struggle that devastated his son.
Morris was in the process of finalizing his divorce with his wife who was given full custody of their son. Officials with the city department of child support services said they could not reveal any information about the case.
Thirteen years earlier, Morris’ twin brother died, according to an online obituary, and a short time later, Morris was in an automobile accident that left him with a painful and chronic back injury, the father said.
The injury became so severe he was forced to leave his post as a sergeant supervising patrol units at Park Station more than a year ago, sources said. Morris also became the subject of an internal criminal investigation due to erratic behavior on the job, the sources said.
Morris was recently placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold and was ordered to surrender his weapons, sources said.
On Wednesday afternoon investigators from the department’s Internal Affairs unit showed up at Morris’ home to collect his firearms and serve a search warrant.
Police officials have not said why Morris was under investigation.
Neighbors reported hearing a gunshot inside the home before Morris was rushed from the scene, bleeding from the head, to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead from a self-inflicted wound.
"I’m really shocked and of course saddened and felt horrible," neighbor Dan Sneider told KTVU as he described the scene flooded by dozens of officers.
The case is a tragic reminder of the hidden struggles so many first responders face, advocates say. Many steer others toward resources but are too reluctant to accept services for themselves.
San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safai spoke to KTVU about the need for additional funding for resources for first responders – including police.
"These are jobs that deal with live and death and they're tremendously, tremendously stressful," he told KTVU in an interview Thursday. "We need to find ways to support them."
Evan Sernoffsky is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email Evan at Evan.Sernoffsky@foxtv.com and follow him on Twitter @evansernoffsky.