Tiburon police sergeant dies in apparent suicide at station
Updated: Jan 3, 2023
Dec. 17, 12:05 p.m. — This article has been updated.
A Tiburon police sergeant died Dec. 12 of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound while on duty at the station, officials say.
Sgt. Sean Christopher was reportedly alone in the police locker room when the incident occurred about 12:45 p.m., but other personnel were in the station when they heard the shot being fired.
The coroner’s division of the Marin County Sheriff’s Office is carrying out the required investigation, according to Vice Mayor Noah Griffin, who said he had received a briefing.
Griffin said he and Councilmember Holli Thier went to the station after hearing the news, and Griffin confirmed a procession of police vehicles seen heading out of town in a motorcade about 4 p.m. was escorting the body to the coroner’s office.
He said Chief Ryan Monaghan and Capt. Michelle Jean convened all available personnel at the station and spent a few hours talking with grief-support counselors from the San Francisco Police Department and other agencies. Staff remained off duty Dec. 13, with officers from Belvedere, Mill Valley and the Sheriff’s Office providing staffing. The station remains temporarily closed to the public.
“We are extraordinarily sad to report the loss of Sgt. Sean Christopher,” Monaghan said by email in a prepared statement. “Out of respect for Sgt. Christopher’s family and coworkers as well as the investigation being led by the Marin County Sheriff’s Office, we cannot make any additional comments at this time.”
The Sheriff’s Office also declined comment.
“I am having trouble putting into words the sorrow that I feel, but my deepest sympathies are with Sean’s family and friends, not only at home but at the Tiburon Police Department,” Mayor Jack Ryan said in a brief telephone interview.
Christopher, 46, of Novato is survived by his wife, Janice, and five children, Alyssa, Tyler, Frankie, Sophia and Jackie. A memorial service is set for 11 a.m. Dec. 21 at New Life Church in Novato, with space limited to 700 and prioritized to uniformed personnel.
The family has started a GoFundMe campaign with a target fundraising goal of $30,000, and the Tiburon Police Association has started a Help A Hero campaign with a target of $50,000, to help support the family.
where to find help • If you are in a crisis or worried about someone who may be suicidal, immediately call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: 988. • For those in a crisis who are more comfortable communicating by text message, you may also text the Bay Area Crisis Text Line with keyword GGB to short code 741741. • For additional resources, call the Marin Suicide Prevention and Community Counseling Hotline at 415-499-1100; the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255), which also has resources at 988lifeline.org. • Learn more about education and prevention programs through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at afsp.org.
Christopher joined the Tiburon department as an officer in February 2019 and was promoted to sergeant in late October, working as the end-of-week night-shift supervisor.
Born in Sacramento, he first worked in the private sector before attending the Sacramento Sheriff’s Academy. He was hired by the Sheriff’s Office there, serving until 2009, when he became a deputy with the Marin County Sheriff’s Office.
During a series of public forums held in Tiburon in fall 2021 — an effort to reconnect police with the community after a series of incidents in 2020 involving race and allegations of profiling — residents asked officers about their day-to-day experiences and the emotional toll of the job.
An officer at the time, Christopher said the cases that challenge him the most are those involving kids, especially since he has kids of his own, or anything involving someone who was “really victimized.” He noted those calls can be particularly difficult to deal with on certain days, more so when he’s experiencing a hard time in his own personal life.
“If I can’t show up to your house and bring you some sense of calm, then that’s going to be a problem,” Christopher said.
According to First Responders Resiliency, a Sonoma County-based organization that aims to decrease stress and enhance resiliency in first responders, more first responders die by suicide every year than in the line of duty, and they have a life expectancy 15 years less than civilians.
Line-of-duty data from National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and suicide data from Blue Help show last year was the deadliest on record, with 642 officers killed — an increase driven almost entirely by COVID-19, at 49 percent of all deaths. Suicide ranked second, at 29 percent, but it represented some 54 percent of non-COVID deaths.
This year, as of Dec. 12, some 45 percent of the total 363 deaths have been by suicide. For more information about nonprofit Blue Help, visit bluehelp.org.