Police Lives Matter: How Suicide Can Impact Law Enforcement Officers

Hospital and Doctor Fail to Properly Diagnose Coral Springs Police Officer Prematurely, Who Was Negligently Released with Access to His Weapon – and He Commits Suicide

Police face incredible stresses in their occupation, and have some of the highest rates of PTSD and high rates of suicide thoughts. Suicide is the highest killer of police. Doctors and Hospitals know this.  As a recently filed case in Broward County shows, yet another one of our finest police officers has committed suicide, shortly after being discharged (with access to his service weapon) from the hospital just after a close but unsuccessful suicide attempt.

On September 15, 2015, Officer Daniel Cucchi, a highly decorated Coral Springs police officer, shot himself in the chest with his service revolver – ending his life at age 50 in the University Hospital & Medical Center parking lot (“Hospital”). An Amended Complaint filed by his surviving wife Lisa Cucchi and their two children against the Hospital and treating doctor Dr. Tanveer Sobhan, M.D. was filed by the law firm of Mager Paruas, LLC on June 26, 2018 in Broward County Court.  The Court has just required the Defendants to answer the complaint and will set the case for trial soon.  The Cucchi family is represented by renowned trial attorney, Scott Mager, who has received a number of multi-million dollar results.

Just three days prior to his suicide or on September 9, 2016, Daniel Cucchi had left the same hospital after being released for an attempted suicide using a combination of Xanax and alcohol.  After the attempt, he was found unconscious in his Coral Springs home by his wife Lisa and transported by ambulance to the Hospital. On the verge of death, Cucchi was admitted and diagnosed with attempted suicide and suicidal overdose. The Hospital and physician initiated the “Baker Act” protocol – which is also known as The Florida Mental Health Act of 1971 (Florida Statutes §394.451-§394.47891 – which provides for the involuntary institutionalization and examination of an individual is in danger of harming himself or others.

During his four-day hospital stay, and despite repeated requests by his wife Lisa Cucchi, not a single psychiatrist met or spoke with Cucchi.  On the fourth day, once he emerged from his coma, the hospital and physicians determined that the intended treatment plan was to admit him to the care and control of University Pavilion, a psychiatric care facility located adjacent to the hospital. While numerous psychiatrists were summoned to the hospital, none showed up during that time-period. As Mr. Cucchi and relatives were packing their belongings to move next door, a psychiatrist by the name of Dr, Tanveer Sobhan, M.D. showed up and introduced himself as a psychiatrist.  He briefly spoke with Mr. Cucchi (in the presence of his wife and father), where Cucchi reiterated “he couldn’t take it anymore,” actually discussed his suicide note and his feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms resulting from his tenure as a police officer handling violent crimes. The doctor performed no full examination, but simply talked for several minutes to Mr. Cucchi in the presence of his wife and father.  Based solely on the pleas made by Mr. Cucchi that he was a police officer and didn’t want to be sent next door because he sends other people there, and that he wouldn’t again attempt suicide, the doctor/hospital did not send him to be evaluated by the professionals at the psychiatric facility next door.  Dr. Sobhan also disregarded another treating physician’s recommendation to make sure that Officer Cucchi was sent to the Pavilion where he could be fully and thoroughly evaluated by a team of psychiatric specialists.  Dr. Sobhan discharged Officer Cucchi even though he was fully aware that Officer Cucchi was a police officer with access to a gun at home. The same gun that he would take his own life with just three days later.  As a parting plea, Dr. Sobhan simply stated to Cucchi – “Don’t make me regret this.”

After the negotiated discharge of Officer Cucchi from the hospital, Cucchi succeeded in committing the act that initially brought him to the hospital and he took his own life on September 15, 2018.

Strangely, the records show that a week after his death, there is an entry claiming that the Baker Act had been discontinued and he did not need to go to the psychiatric facility.

The consequences of failing to properly treat Mr. Cucchi did not end the nightmare just with his suicide.  One of his sons, devastated by his father’s suicide, has since attempted suicide because he “wanted to be with his father.”  He is now institutionalized.

Officer Cucchi served in many different positions at the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Coral Springs Police Department. He had more recently been working on cold case files, which involved the most horrific and gruesome of cases. Dealing extensively with and working on these types of cases took a severe toll on Cucchi’s mental health.  He and Lisa were married for 24 years.

With mental health treatment is becoming more acceptable and with diagnosis skills being at an all-time high – and particularly with suicide and PTSD in high occurrence in law enforcement – it is exceedingly important that our health professionals be sensitive to the realities of such real harm, and to not be swayed by the fact that they are treating a law enforcement official, or to disregard required evaluation or provide more deference just because of their position.  “He was the most generous and wonderful human being I ever knew,” said his living widow.  Other officers said he was one of the most dedicated and likeable police officers they ever knew. “The doctor and hospital should have known better,” said one officer who wished to remain anonymous.

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