A 26-year-old Jacksonville man took his own life by gun Sunday morning in the surf at Varn Park north of Beverly Beach, as law enforcement officers had spotted him and tried to stop him, according to a Flagler County Sheriff’s incident report.
The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office alerted local authorities that the victim’s boss had contacted police, saying an employee was making suicidal statements and had driven off with a company vehicle. The vehicle is listed in the report as belonging to Stake Center Locating of Dade City. St. Johns authorities had located the vehicle by GPS, at Varn Park, parked there since 10:08 Saturday morning.
The man had been posting comments about self-harm on Facebook and sending texts to friends and family members, one of which clearly stated tht he was “about to walk into the ocean and end it.”
A Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy observed the work truck parked at the park, unoccupied, but with its work lights on. A fisherman told the deputy that he’d seen a man walk south on the beach. The deputy spotted the man about 1,000 yards further south. Flagler Beach Police Chief Matt Doughney located the man sitting in the sand facing the ocean, parallel with properties in the 3,000 block of North Oceanshore Boulevard, so within clear sights of numerous houses there.
Flagler County FireFlight, the emergency helicopter, arrived on the scene, and several law enforcement officers–deputies and Flagler Beach police–went around one of the residences to make contact with the 26 year old. When the man saw the helicopter and noticed the officers, he “stood up and started walking towards the ocean with a black firearm in his right hand,” the report states, ignoring a deputy’s entreaties to stop. The man kept walking toward, then into, the ocean. He walked 15 feet into the water, turned around, and fired a shot into the sea. He then turned the firearm on himself and fired.
Deputies rushed into the surf, pulled him out and administered life-saving measures, but the man was pronounced deceased at 10:39 a.m.
The area of the incident was then turned into a crime scene, as is routine in such instances, with sheriff’s detectives taking over the scene before the medical examiner took possession of the man’s body for an autopsy to be performed in St. Augustine. A sheriff’s dive team recovered the firearm.
In 2021, the last year for which complete figures are available, the Florida Health Department reports that Flagler County had the ninth-highest suicide rate in the state, out of 67 counties, with 25 suicides, a rate of 22.4 per 100,000 population. The state’s rate was 13.8.
The following resources are available for individuals in crisis:
In Flagler: The Crisis Triage and Treatment Unit (CTTU) is a crisis assessment and referral service for Flagler County residents experiencing behavioral health crisis. It is located at 301 Justice Lane in the Brown & Brown Outpatient building at the Vince Carter Sanctuary in Bunnell. This program is limited to individuals escorted to the program by law enforcement between the hours of noon and midnight daily. Law enforcement is able to transport individuals to SMA to assess and determine the appropriate clinical disposition. When required and appropriate, SMA then transports the individual to a receiving facility in Volusia County.
In Daytona Beach: Stewart-Marchman Act Corporation Crisis Center
1220 Willis Avenue
Daytona Beach, FL 32114
Crisis Line: (800) 539 – 4228
Available 24 hours.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800/273-8255 (TALK), or use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat, both available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255.
People 60 and older can call the Institute on Aging’s 24-hour, toll-free Friendship Line at 800-971-0016. IOA also makes ongoing outreach calls to lonely older adults.