Carbondale police officer was on duty at time of death
CARBONDALE – A Carbondale police officer who died of what law enforcement officials confirmed was a self-inflicted gunshot wound early Tuesday morning was on duty at the time, Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said.Vallario said on Wednesday that Nino Santiago Sr. was parked in a Carbondale Police Department patrol car during his patrol shift around 1 a.m. Tuesday.Santiago’s death has been ruled a suicide, Vallario said.Law enforcement authorities became aware that something was wrong, he said, when a relative of Santiago’s reported that he had sent a text message about 12:30 a.m. that night, saying “Tell everybody I love them.”Carbondale police and Garfield County Sheriff’s deputies immediately began searching the community for Santiago. A sheriff’s deputy found Santiago in the parking lot on Snowmass Drive that is shared by Crystal River Elementary School and the Church at Carbondale.The sheriff’s office took over the investigation at the request of Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling, since the department was directly affected. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation assisted.Because the shooting was determined to be a suicide, Vallario said the sheriff’s investigation into the matter has been closed.Since the investigation scene was so close to the school, classes were canceled for the day Tuesday. The parking lot where the shooting occurred is owned by the church, but the school has a use agreement for teachers and staff to park there on school days.Vallario said a private trauma debriefing was held Wednesday evening for Carbondale police department staff and sheriff’s deputies to discuss the experience.Community members have also organized a “Light Up Carbondale for Nino” candlelight vigil for 7:15 p.m. Friday in Sopris Park. Residents are asked to bring a candle to the park to remember Santiago.”He’s one of ours, and we wanted to support the community with this loss,” said local nurse and longtime Carbondale resident Barb Bush.Santiago had been employed with the town’s police force since May 2008. His son, “Junior” Santiago, also joined the force that same year and still works as a patrol officer.Born in upstate New York and raised in Puerto Rico, Santiago senior was a U.S. Marine veteran, having served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He also had served in the Army National Guard and Air Force National Guard while embarking on his law enforcement career.Official memorial service information is still pending.
Post Independent Managing editor Heather McGregor contributed to this firstname.lastname@example.org
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