Officers on the scene of the February 6 suicide in Cherokee Park.
LMPD Lieutenant Mike O'Neil
Lucas Ohnimus (Source: LMDC)
Brandon Wight (Source: Clark County Jail)
Monica Berger (Source: WAVE 3 News Archives)
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Every day police officers see things most of us will never have to face. A recent stretch of nine days became extremely difficult for Louisville Metro Police officers from the 5th Division when two suspects took their lives right in front of them.
A loaded gun to the head is just one trauma a police officer may see and deal with before going to work the next day. "This group of officers saw two things in one week that 99 percent of your population is never ever going to see," said LMPD Lieutenant Mike O'Neil, the Commander of the Peer support team.
Two robberies ended in suicide in the same police division in less than two weeks. The first robbery happened February 6 at a PNC Bank located in the Highlands. Officers followed a fleeing SUV into a crowded section of Cherokee Park, then the driver, who was identified by police as Lucas Ohnimus, 21, got out of the vehicle and shot himself. Ohnimus was taken to University of Louisville Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
O'Neil said, officers who witnessed Ohnimus' death tried to calm their emotions by using "what if's" as a defense mechanism. Officers were immediately relieved no one else was hurt.
The second robbery turned suicide happened Saturday night. Police said Brandon Wight, 33, robbed nine other stores across town made his tenth robbery at Bowman Field Wine and Spirits his last. As a 5th Division officer pulled Wight over, he shot and killed himself.
O'Neil couldn't believe his text alert informing him of the second suicide, "I saw on the text who it was and I saw it was some of the same officers that made the first one and it really dialed things up," he said. He thought, "This is going to be a tough one."
O'Neil went to the Cherokee Park suicide himself and made sure another member of the team went to the second scene to help the officers involved.
Trauma has many definitions for police. At the top? Witnessing suicides, being involved in a shooting and seeing a child hurt or killed. O'Neil wanted to help other officers after dealing with the same situations himself. O'Neil was first on the scene 13 years ago, when Louisville mother Monica Berger stabbed her young son more than 40 times. He said the memory still haunts him.
LMPD's support team counsels and educates officers, letting them know it is ok their emotions aren't bullet proof. They want officers to know it's better to talk things out so it doesn't effect their careers or their families later.
O'Neil said, "We can't change the situation and we can't change what we deal with out on the streets, but we want to change how those situations effect us."
We are told the officers involved seem to be doing well this week. They also have access to an outside counseling service if they need it.