Melissa Meekma, the El Dorado County sheriff’s deputy who retired last year after being wounded in the line of duty, has committed suicide.
Meekma, 28, was found dead by Placerville police officers at her Briw Road home shortly before 10 a.m. yesterday. Police Chief George Nielsen said the cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the head.
“It’s just a sad day for law enforcement, just a complete tragedy,” Nielsen said yesterday. “A lot of people here knew her well. She started her career with us as a cadet.”
Nielsen said a neighbor in Meekma’s apartment complex called officials at 9:41 a.m., after hearing the gunshot.
Nielsen said it didn’t appear that anyone was with her at the time of her death and that she left a suicide note, the contents of which he said were basic and not detailed.
The note, he said, did not mention anything about the July 2007 shoot-out that she and two other deputies, Greg Murphy and John Yaws were involved in, in which a suspect who killed his father was shot and killed by the deputies. That shoot-out remains controversial as Sheriff Jeff Neves and other county officials have still yet to release a final report on the year-and-a-half old incident, leaving questions still unanswered for many.
At the time of that shooting, Meekma, Murphy and Yaws, wounded in the shootout, were transported to Sutter Roseville Hospital, where they were released after recovering physically. But Meekma did not return to duty.
She eventually severed ties with the Sheriff’s Department and garnered public praise earlier this year when she declined to sign in on a $38 million lawsuit filed by Yaws and Murphy against the widow of the man killed in the shoot-out. Yaws and Murphy later dropped the suit.
Sheriff Neves said yesterday that the Sheriff’s Department is very saddened and taken aback by Meekma’s death.
“Melissa had an incredible spark about her that we will all miss very much,” Neves said. “She was passionate about her job and was always upbeat with a smile on her face.”
“As far as her death, I’m not going to speculate on anything, but I will say that suicide is the No. 1 cause of premature death among law enforcement officers.
“We see things that most people shouldn’t have to see and it affects us,” he added.
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