LOGAN, Utah – A man is facing two charges after he allegedly provided a gun to a friend who was threatening self-harm and ultimately committed suicide, and the county attorney said the unique case is a reminder those who threaten suicide should be taken seriously and that those around them should strive to connect the person with professional help.
According to an affidavit for arrest warrant filed June 19, 48-year-old David Thomas Schofield faces two charges: possession of firearm by a restricted person as a second-degree felony and reckless endangerment as a class A misdemeanor.
The document alleges that on June 13, police responded to a home in Logan where a man had shot himself in the head. (NOTE: FOX 13 News does not generally identify victims of suicide or report on such incidents unless there is a larger impact to the public, such as in the case of criminal charges.)
Schofield told police that the victim, the victim’s significant other, and a juvenile friend had come to Schofield’s home to seek aid after the victim had expressed feelings of depression and sent text messages to friends saying he wanted to end his life.
Schofield told police the man had obtained the handgun when Schofield left the room briefly and that the man shot himself after Schofield returned, but the other two witnesses contradicted that statement. According to the court document, both witnesses said the three went to Schofield’s home for help with the individual’s depression and that Schofield immediately retrieved the handgun and gave it to the man.
Both witnesses reported Schofield saying something to the effect of: “If you want to do it then pull the trigger,” according to the court document. After that statement, “[Victim] put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger,” according to the affidavit.
Cache County Attorney James Swaink said the victim had threatened suicide before and had been talked out of harming himself by Schofield. He said the man should have been helpful again, rather than providing a weapon.
“It’s unique because when people are threatening doing harm to themselves, the right thing to do would be to offer assistance and help, and maybe even calling 911 if it’s that serious rather than providing them the means to injure themselves,” Swaink said.
Swaink said it isn’t clear yet what the man’s motive was for allegedly handing over the loaded firearm. He said the investigation is ongoing, and the charges the man faces could change if more information comes to light.
“Right now we believe the evidence shows that it’s, at the very minimum, reckless behavior that caused this injury and death to the victim in this case,” he said. “And if we have more information about why, obviously that will be forthcoming from the investigation.”
Swaink said Schofield has a prior conviction for aggravated assault, which means he is not allowed to have a dangerous weapon, like the handgun he allegedly gave to the victim–thus the felony charge for possessing the firearm.
Swaink said he hasn’t ever seen a case similar to this, and he said Utah law doesn’t have any provisions for assisted suicide–even in a medical setting, the way some states, like Oregon, Washington and others, do.
“In this instance, it’s absolute: You don’t provide a person like this with the assistance to kill themselves,” he said.
Swaink said the man who died was young and physically healthy, and he said that most people who end up completing a suicide attempt do so after having attempted or threatened to do so previously, as in this case. He said that makes it incredibly important for people to be aware when someone they care about is threatening to commit suicide or showing signs of depression.
“The positives that I hope that we can take from this very tragic situation is that we need to understand people who are threatening suicide: We can help them,” Swaink said. “When people are threatening suicide, we get them help. We don’t hurt them or provide them the means to complete the suicide. But we understand that suicide is a problem in our communities. It happens all too frequently. It impacts not only the people who attempt or complete a suicide, but it impacts their family, their friends, their associates in ways that are traumatic.”
Swaink said people should find ways to help distressed individuals and suggested connecting them with professional counseling. He said in some situations it’s best to call 911 if you think self-harm is imminent.
“In this incident, the 911 call would have been very appropriate to get help for this individual that was obviously in crisis,” he said.
All suicidal thoughts, behaviors, and attempts should be taken seriously. Get help 24/7 by calling the Statewide CrisisLine at 801-587-3000 or the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine at 1-800-273-TALK. Help is also available online at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Trained consultants will provide free and confidential crisis counseling to anyone in need.