NEWTOWN, CT (WFSB) - A town already touched by tragedy is living through pain once again.
Monday morning, a man whose child was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was found dead in Newtown.
According to police, 49-year-old Jeremy Richman died of an apparent suicide at Edmond Town Hall, which is a theater and banquet venue on Main Street.
The Newtown Police Department confirmed the death on its Facebook page.
The cause was not released, but police said his death did not appear to be suspicious.
His body was transported to the state medical examiner's office for an autopsy, which is expected to be completed by later in the day on Monday.
Police said Richman has an office in the Edmond Town Hall and is the founder of the Avielle Foundation.
It's mission is to prevent violence and build compassion through neuroscience research, community engagement, and education.
“Mr. Richman was a well spoken, well known advocate of mental health and some of the issues are surrounding the tragedy of Sandy Hook and as a community as a whole we’re shocked," said Newtown Police Chief James Viadero.
The Foundation released a statement on Monday saying "Our hearts are shattered, and our heads are struggling to comprehend. Jeremy was a champion father, husband, neuroscientist and, for the past seven years, a crusader on a mission to help uncover the neurological underpinnings of violence through the Avielle Foundation, which he and his wife, Jennifer Hensel, founded after the death of their daughter, Avielle, at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Jeremy was deeply devoted to supporting research into brain abnormalities that are linked to abnormal behavior and to promoting brain health. Tragically, his death speaks to how insidious and formidable a challenge brain health can be and how critical it is for all of us to seek help for ourselves, our loved ones and anyone who we suspect may be in need. Jeremy’s mission will be carried on by the many who love him, including many who share the heartache and trauma that he has suffered since December 14, 2012. We are crushed to pieces, but this important work will continue, because, as Jeremy would say, we have to. As we did six years ago and now must do again today, we ask both the media and the public to give the family the privacy anyone would deserve to begin to process this tragic development."
Avielle Richman was among the 26 students and staff who were killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
Just last week, Richman was a keynote speaker at a summit on violence in Florida.
“We have a really profound epidemic of violence in our country. Violence to self and others," Richman had said in an interview last week.
“This is a heart breaking event for the Richman family and the Newtown Community as a whole, the police department’s prayers are with the Richman family right now, and we ask that the family be given privacy in this most difficult time," said Lt. Aaron Bahamonde, Newtown police.
Dr. James O'Dea with Hartford Hospital's Institute of Living said everyone is affected by trauma differently.
“There are tragedies across the country and unfortunately we have these conversations all too often," O'Dea said.
On Monday, Sen. Chris Murphy took to Twitter where he called Richman's death horrible and devastating news.
"Jeremy was a good friend and an unceasing advocate for better research into the brain’s violence triggers," Murphy wrote. "He was with me in my office two weeks ago, excited as could be about the Avielle Foundation’s latest amazing work."
Gov. Ned Lamont also issued a statement, saying "Annie and I are heartbroken for the Richman family. Thoughts and prayers just don't feel like enough in times like these. Words cannot even begin to express our sorrow."
Senator Richard Blumenthal also released a statement, saying "Jeremy Richman's passing is simply devastating. I was proud to call Jeremy a good friend, a dedicated father, an esteemed researcher & an outstanding human being. He will be deeply missed by all that knew him."
Both the Sandy Hook Promise and Newtown Action Alliance issued statements encouraging anyone needing help to know that it is out there.
The Newtown Action Alliance said "Our hearts are complete broken. Please hold Jeremy’s family & our community in your hearts. If you or someone you know is facing a crisis, please 1) Text TALK to 741741 for 24-hr support. 2) ALL 1-800-273-8255 24-hours/7 days a wk."
Congressman John Larson issued a statement as well, saying "Heartbroken to hear this news and my heart goes out to Jeremy Richman’s loved ones. If you or someone you know is having a hard time or struggling, call the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255)"
This is the third suicide with a mass shooting-related connection to be reported in the last week.
Sydney Aiello, 19, took her own life on March 17, according to her mother. Aiello was a close friend of Meadow Pollack, who was one of 17 people killed in the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL last year.
Aiello's mother blamed post traumatic stress disorder and survivor's guilt.
A second student also committed suicide. The student's name was not released, but police said he was a sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
“I don’t think that anybody cannot make that nexus between the two. That was a concern when we saw that happen. Mental health professionals that have been talking to us over the last six years, have talked about the after effects are not just the immediate after effects of that traumatic events, you’re going to see some of these mental health issues occur over and over again as time progresses," Viadero said.
Anyone looking for help can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It's available 24 hours a day.
Another resource is Prevent Suicide CT. More information can be found here or by calling 2-1-1 and pressing 1. If outside of CT, dial 1-800-273 8255.
Brother of Jesse Lewis speaks out after tragic death
Pain and anguish has washed over the victims’ families again in the Sandy Hook school massacre, after learning of the tragic death of Jeremy Richman.
On Monday, Channel 3 sat down with J.T. Lewis, whose brother Jesse was killed in the school shooting six years ago.
He said whether its Sandy Hook or a Parkland victim, there are always “triggers” that won’t ever let you forget.
“These little triggers, you never know when they’re going to come up, no one means to do it, so I have no idea what happens this morning with Jeremy or what happened last week in Parkland,” J.T. Lewis said on Monday.
J.T. Lewis says to help others cope, he posted suicide prevention numbers on his social media accounts.
He said surviving a tragedy is different for each suffering person because there are always reminders when you least expect them.
“When I took my SATs, the teacher would write on the board when the stop time is. He wrote on it the stop time is 12:14. I had to sit there as I took it the entire time just look at that number. Which of course is 12:14, December 14,” Lewis said, pointing out that is the date the shooting happened.
Lewis said his mother called him on Monday to let him know about the sudden death, and that survivors also need support.
“It’s opening an eye to this survivors’ guilt thing that’s going on and maybe we’ll learn how to combat that and how to help thousands of other kids who’ve been in these schools when this stuff happens,” Lewis said.
He added that he and his family are spiritual, and that he does talk to his late brother Jesse, often asking for some explanation as to why these things are happening.