By Colin Campbell and Jessica Anderson The Baltimore Sun
BALTIMORE — A Baltimore County police officer working as a school resource officer at Eastern Technical High School in Essex fatally shot himself at the school Monday, police said.
Officer Joseph Comegna, a 21-year veteran of the force, was taken to MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center for a self-inflicted gunshot wound and pronounced dead.
Faculty heard a sound come from Comenga’s basement office at 12:23 p.m. and found him alone inside suffering from a gunshot wound, according to Officer Jennifer Peach, a police spokeswoman. His service weapon was found in the room with him, she said, and investigators believe he shot himself with it.
Security camera footage confirmed that Comegna entered his office alone, Peach said. Comegna was wearing a body camera, but Peach said police do not believe it was turned on at the time.
The department initially reported that the officer suffered an unknown “medical emergency.”
The school was placed on lockdown status and students were kept away from the area, Peach said. While no students were believed to have seen what happened, it is possible they might have heard the gunshot, as the faculty members who responded did, she said.
Students were dismissed at the normal time at 2:20 p.m. All after-school and evening activities were canceled, Baltimore County Public Schools said.
No students or other staff were injured.
Interim schools Superintendent Verletta White expressed condolences to Comegna’s family and the school in a statement.
“I am saddened to learn about the death of Officer Joseph Comegna, the school resource officer at Eastern Technical High,” she said. “My thoughts and prayers are with his family, the Baltimore County Police Department, and Eastern Tech’s students and staff. We will be sure to have a traumatic loss team at the school to support students and staff Tuesday.”
Peach said the school is expected to open Tuesday, and that the police department is still investigating. She could not provide any information as to a possible motive.
Comegna had worked at Eastern Tech the last four years, and had been a school resource officer for 12 years. He worked as a Baltimore police officer before joining the county police force in 1997, said Cpl. Shawn Vinson, a county police spokesman who said he was in Comegna’s recruitment class.
In a statement, Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler sent his and the entire county’s condolences to the officer’s family.
“So difficult to find the words when a family loses a loved one,” he said. “All of us in Baltimore County stand in support of the Comegna family at this difficult time.”
Comegna was once quoted in a newsletter for the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, where he discussed his love of working with young people.
“It is great to be able to give the kids what they need for the future,” he said. “As a police officer, you are usually at the end of the game with people. But with kids, you can start from the beginning.
“That’s what’s good about working with kids. You can change the outcome — you can change the outcome in that person’s life.”
If you need help or know someone who does, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8355.