St. LUCI COUNTY, FL – Ken Mascara, Sheriff of St. Lucy County, Friday shared his thoughts and feelings about the tragic deaths of two lawmakers who recently committed suicide.
The sheriff’s office said Representative Clayton Austin attempted suicide shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve. His family removed him from life support on January 2.
Deputy Victoria Pacheco, having learned of Austin’s death, then committed suicide. Austin and Pacheco had a one-month-old son named Jace.
When the tragic news broke that the two Saints County deputies had committed suicide within days of each other, people around the world immediately rallied to support the child they left behind.
Fundraising through GoFundMe and the mayor’s office directly comes to nearly $200,000.
And the community, like Harbor Place in Port St. Lucie, went up to collect diapers, milk, and clothes, hoping to fill an entire truck.
Indian River State College has also already committed to giving Jayce four years of college.
Sheriff Mascara confirmed that Jace is in a loving home with his aunt, uncle and two children.
“Clayton’s brother, who is also a deputy here, immediately detained Jesse,” Mascara said.
Austin and Pacheco are the agency’s first suicides since the mid-1990s.
“These two were a punch to me and it was because of the method,” Mascara said.
The cause may always be a mystery.
“We’ll never get that answer,” Mascara said, adding that there was no sign of conflict in either of their lives.
Austin, a Marine, was hired in 2019 and excelled at his job. He was awarded the “Prosecutor General” and was the grandson and nephew of a former mayor.
Set in 2020, Pacheco received a lifesaving award, and seemed very happy to be a new mom.
“She was always happy, smiling, ready to give a hand, and so upbeat the whole time,” Mascara said.
Mascara said, of course, that their deaths prompted an internal review.
“Did I miss something? Did our agency miss something? After reviewing the facts of this tragic incident, after reviewing all of our policies, all of our protocols, I can definitely tell you that we haven’t missed anything,” Mascara said.
At the time of their deaths, the agency had a chaplain available, critical incident stress management training for all deputies, peer-to-peer sessions, an emergency assistance program, and mental health professionals available to deputies.
The agency will soon have an app accessible to all MPs that can put them in immediate contact with health professionals dealing with first responders. Treasure Coast Hospice also continues to provide grief advice.
“Jays may never know his mum and dad, but we’ve got 800 aunts and uncles right here in the mayor’s office,” Mascara said.
Anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide is encouraged to call 211 or the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.