PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — A young mother from the Land O' Lakes area died by suicide after reportedly killing her two children Wednesday.
The father of the 9-month-old and 3-year-old kids returned home and found them, along with his wife, dead before calling 911, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco explained in a news conference Thursday.
Deputies responded to the scene just before 6 p.m. where an investigation took place. No other children were reportedly involved in the incident and the father is said to be cooperating with deputies.
When asked what led to the incident, Pasco County Sheriff's Office Major Crimes Unit Sergeant Michael Rosa said there was some type of "prior dispute."
The mother involved also appeared to have possible "mental health illness," Rosa explained.
"A little vagueness, but I think you can connect it all together. Couples argue sometimes,...so maybe some arguments may have led to people being upset," Nocco explained.
The gun used was legally owned and appeared to have been owned by the husband, according to Rosa
The sheriff went on to talk about the "mental health crisis" he says communities are currently facing.
"The tragedies that we saw last night emphasize the fact that we gotta keep speaking," Nocco said. "We gotta keep speaking louder and louder and louder until it gets through everybody out there to realize that we are in a mental health crisis"
Eighty percent of every call for service law enforcement officers respond to have a mental health component to it, the sheriff explained.
"Unfortunately, law enforcement, we're the tip of the spear addressing mental health," Nocco said. "And as we saw last night...in too many of these tragedies, law enforcement is only called when a crisis has hit a tragedy and last night was absolutely a tragedy"
Nocco said things like social media, peer pressure and tense conversations between people make it so the crisis isn't going away.
"We have to break the stigma of mental health, we have to break the stigma that it's a law enforcement issue," he said. "We have to recognize it's a mental health crisis, it's a health care crisis. Law enforcement is only part of it."
Nocco said partnerships with the emergency rooms around the Tampa Bay area would be a step in the right direction.
"If you go to an emergency room, a lot of times the people that [law enforcement officers] get called out to are the same people that walk into the ER room," he explained. "If we could address and [ask] how we can help those people before it becomes a crisis...we'll be way more efficient [and] way more effective in helping them out preventing these crises."
10 Tampa Bay Cares: Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis is urged to reach out for help. Visit pascosheriff.com/MENTALHEALTH.html for a list of community-based resources in your area. The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is available 24/7 by dialing 211.