LIMA — Police officials were in a state of shock Tuesday as news spread about the death of a popular sergeant who took his own life.
Sgt. David Gillispie was remembered Tuesday as an officer who always dedicated himself to helping the community and working hard for the Lima Police Department, where he had worked for nearly 20 years.
“We are devastated by this very tragic loss,” Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin said. “Sgt. Gillispie was a very valuable member of this department. He will be greatly missed.”
The department’s critical incident team, which includes counselors along with chaplains who volunteer with the department, were available to meet with officers and staff. The agency also uses professionals at St. Rita’s Medical Center that any staff member can use, Martin said.
“This is a terrible tragic loss. As hard as it is for us in the department, I know it’s even harder for his family. I ask the community to please keep his family in their thoughts and prayers,” Martin said.
His funeral arrangements were incomplete.
The Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office reported Gillispie’s death Tuesday. Deputies and detectives responded at 12:51 p.m. Monday to the German Zion Cemetery on Eisley Road just east of Kossuth on report of a man with a gun sitting in a vehicle parked in the cemetery threatening suicide. Deputies tried to talk to Gillispie but for a reason still to be determined, Gillispie took his own life at the scene, the Sheriff’s Office reported.
The 43-year-old Gillispie was married and a father to five children. He was a decorated police officer having been chosen as Ohio’s Finest Law Enforcement Officer in 2014 among all police officers in the state. He also was the 2014 Lima Exchange Club’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.
Gillispie joined the Lima Police Department on Sept. 4, 1996. One of his first assignments was as a community policing officer during the original community-oriented policing initiative, a position he loved and really believed in his work working with residents to solve problems.
When that position was later abolished because of financial constraints, Gillispie teared up in an interview talking about leaving the assignment.
Still, Gillispie was always a team player who would embrace any assignment he had and tackle it with 100 percent of his energy and never complain. He later would work as an investigator and as a member of the PACE Unit, which became the West Central Ohio Crime Task Force, investigating various crimes, including drugs.
Most recently, he worked as a sergeant on third shift. He became a sergeant in 2012, Martin said.
Gillispie was a member of the Violent Crimes Against Children Task Force through the FBI but gave that position up about a year ago because of the demands of his assignment on third shift, Martin said.
He also was a member of the agency’s tactical team, bike patrol, and the agency’s honor guard.
A man with mental problems stabbed Gillispie in the head in 2013 with a screwdriver outside the Police Department. Gillispie was able to pull his gun and shoot the man to stop the attack. Even after the attack, Gillispie, bleeding from the head and injured, somehow found the strength to check on the man and get him help.
He also was credited with stopping a man from shooting another officer in 2000 during a traffic stop. Gillispie has been described as fearless in his efforts to protect residents, including in 2005 when he chased a man with a submachine gun, stopping him before that man hurt anyone. In 2007, he ran into a burning house to rescue a paraplegic woman who was trapped in her wheelchair, saving her life.
While his family kept him busy outside of work, Gillispie found time to volunteer for any activity his children had such as coaching a sports team or helping as a Boy Scout leader.