LBPD officer found dead outside Willow Street substation in apparent suicide, police say

Long Beach police said one of their officers was found dead from an apparently self-inflicted wound outside the department’s east division substation on Saturday afternoon.

Detectives are still investigating, and coroner’s officials are working to finalize a cause of death, but officials believe the death was a suicide, the LBPD said.

The Long Beach Police Officers Association said the officer was Chris Zamora, who had “a very distinguished career, and was especially noted for his work within the Gang Detail.” He was 44. Over the span of a 20-year-career, Zamora had helped innovate ways to combat gang violence and earned recognition for his work on hate crimes and human trafficking.

Police said officers were in the substation’s parking lot at 3800 E. Willow Street when they discovered Zamora’s body in a vehicle shortly after 3 p.m.

“Please keep our officers’ family, friends, and loved ones in your thoughts and prayers as they grieve during this very difficult time,” police said in a statement.

Zamora was key in developing the gang prevention strategy run out of the Long Beach City Prosecutor’s office, which included tactics like free tattoo removal for gang members and programs to help them find jobs, according to City Prosecutor Doug Haubert. 

“Beloved by all,” Haubert said about Zamora. “Can’t believe he’s gone.”

Zamora “was always uplifting” while working with youth in some of Long Beach’s most underserved neighborhoods, said State Sen. Lena Gonzalez, who credited him with leaving a “positive imprint in our communities.”

This was the second suicide in the east division station’s parking lot in the span of a few years. Former LBPD Sgt. Don Campbell, who retired in 2017, shot himself there in Jan. 2019.

In recent years, the LBPD has dedicated more resources to mental health programs for officers. In 2019, they launched a counseling program that was the first of its kind for the department.

The increased focus on mental health came in the wake of Officer Hector Gutierrez’s death. The 50-year-old gang detective killed himself in 2017 after a long career with the department.

“We continue to recognize that suicide is a crisis within our profession,” the Police Officers Association said in a statement. “Help is available 24/7 for those who are suffering. You are not alone and it is OK to seek help when you are hurting.”

Police urged anyone who needs help or knows someone who does to call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove a statement that Zamora died of a gunshot wound. Authorities have not said what kind of wound it was other than to say it was self-inflicted.

Staff writer Anthony Pignataro contributed to this report.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children.
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