LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Police in Lancaster County received an unusual letter in July thanking them for their help. The writer is a resident who said officers helped him turn his life around after he decided to commit “suicide by cop.”

Lt. Josh Kilgore, who responded to the initial mental health episode, said reading this letter makes it clear what his officers are doing is working.

In March of 2021, Kilgore and other officers from the Northern Lancaster County Regional Police Department responded to what started as a domestic incident.

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“Unfortunately that night it was freezing cold,” Kilgore said.

Kilgore said when officers arrived, a woman had left the home and met officers outside.

“Her husband was suffering from some mental issues,” Kilgore said.

Kilgore and other officers tried speaking to the man, who was still in the house.

“[He] made some threatening remarks that he had a handgun,” Kilgore said.

The man later fired at least two shots inside. Police called in a Special Emergency Response Team (SERT).

“They have qualified professionals to handle negotiations,” Kilgore said. “They were successful in getting the gentleman to come out of the house, to us, unarmed.”

The man was taken to a hospital and later charged with Reckless Endangerment, Terroristic Threats, Simple Assault and Discharging of firearm in an occupied dwelling.

However, more than year later, the police department received a letter, addressed to Kilgore and other officers.

“Basically showing remorse for what happened,” Kilgore said.

The man who had fired shots inside his home thanked the officers who responded, writing “Your decisions that night are why I am alive today.”

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“It’s a great feeling for us to see someone, to go through that whole process and actually get help,” Kilgore said.

Kilgore said this letter proves why officers go through extensive mental health training, including a crisis intervention program through the county

“It’s a week-long training specifically for dealing with people for mental health,” Kilgore said.

That is on top of the training in the police academy, in the field and in other state programs. The department is even introducing virtual reality as a training tool.

Kilgore acknowledged the questions in recent years about police response to mental health calls, but he said this case is the system working.

“It clarifies that what we’re doing is the right thing,” he said.

In the letter, the man also wrote that he is now in counseling and has access to medication. He credits the officers for helping him start getting his life back.

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