NJ Sheriff Dead by Suicide After Layoffs, Jail Assault Charges
Richard H. Berdnik, the sheriff of Passaic County, New Jersey, died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in a restaurant. His death follows recent turmoil in his department, including layoffs and charges against officers accused of abusing a pretrial detainee. Berdnik had served as sheriff for five terms since first being sworn into the role in January 2011.
Passaic County Sheriff’s Shocking Death Amid Department’s Turmoil
Passaic County, New Jersey’s Sheriff, Richard H. Berdnik, died of an alleged self-inflicted gunshot wound on Tuesday, says NBC New York. His death followed a week of upheaval in the department, including layoffs and assault charges against officers.
Berdnik’s life ended inside Toros, a Turkish restaurant in Clifton, New Jersey, around 3:30 p.m. His death was confirmed by Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh on Facebook, praising him as an ‘exemplary law enforcement leader’.
Earlier that day, Mayor Sayegh presented a key to the city to Toros’ owner for donating 10,000 meals and providing free meals to healthcare workers during the pandemic. Berdnik, however, wasn’t present.
Sheriff Berdnik’s Career: A Look Back
Having served five terms, Berdnik was a significant figure in New Jersey law enforcement. He was first sworn in as sheriff in 2011 and reelected for his fifth term in 2022. He leaves behind his wife and four adult children.
Turbulent Times for Passaic County Sheriff’s Office
The department is undergoing a challenging period with 29 jail corrections officers laid off last week, as reported by the Bergen Record. Additionally, a correctional officer and two sergeants were recently charged with rights deprivation and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
The charges followed a statement from prosecutors about an alleged assault on a pretrial detainee by the said officers, who failed to report the use of force.
Tributes and Reactions
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy expressed deep sadness over the tragic loss of Sheriff Berdnik and lauded his over four-decade career. An active investigation into his death is ongoing.
Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes extended deepest condolences to the Berdnik family and all law enforcement members affected by this tragedy.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also reach the network, previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
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