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Officials & Friends React To News Of Jeremy Richman Death

Published: March 25, 2019 at 02:25 pm

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UPDATE (Monday, March 25, 2019; 3 pm): This story has been updated to include a statement from The Avielle Foundation and Governor Ned Lamont.

UPDATE (Wednesday, March 27, 2019): This story has been updated to include comments from Yale Department of Psychiatry Chairman Dr John Krystal.

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Town, state and national leaders have been responding to the news of the March 25 death of Sandy Hook resident Jeremy Richman. Dr Richman’s body was discovered inside Edmond Town Hall around 7 am Monday. Police have announced the death appears to be a suicide.

First Selectman Daniel Rosenthal was among the first to reach out to The Newtown Bee on Monday, saying there were "no words to describe the tragic weight of today's news.

"Jeremy Richman was a loving husband, father and friend to many. I am proud to say he was my friend," Mr Rosenthal continued.  "I don’t want to speculate as to why Jeremy took his life, except to say none of us can fathom the enormity of loss he carried with him after the death of his beautiful daughter, Avielle.

"Please keep Jeremy’s family in your hearts and pray that they find some measure of peace that he is now with Avielle.  I respectfully ask that they be given space to grieve without media intrusion."

The Richman family was directly affected on 12/14, when their daughter Avielle was one of the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The town was inundated with local, regional, national, and even international media teams within hours of the shootings. Many families of those killed that Friday morning reported invasive tactics, even harassment, by reporters seeking comments and interviews. 

The Avielle Foundation issued the following statement on the passing of Dr Richman:

“Our hearts are shattered, and our heads are struggling to comprehend. Jeremy was a champion father, husband, neuroscientist and, for the past seven years, a crusader on a mission to help uncover the neurological underpinnings of violence through the Avielle Foundation, which he and his wife, Jennifer Hensel, founded after the death of their daughter, Avielle, at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Jeremy was deeply devoted to supporting research into brain abnormalities that are linked to abnormal behavior and to promoting brain health. Tragically, his death speaks to how insidious and formidable a challenge brain health can be and how critical it is for all of us to seek help for ourselves, our loved ones and anyone who we suspect may be in need.

"Jeremy’s mission will be carried on by the many who love him, including many who share the heartache and trauma that he has suffered since December 14, 2012. We are crushed to pieces, but this important work will continue, because, as Jeremy would say, we have to.

"As we did six years ago and now must do again today, we ask both the media and the public to give the family the privacy anyone would deserve to begin to process this tragic development.”

Newtown Police Newtown Police Lt Aaron Bahamonde called the suicide "a heartbreaking event for the Richman family and the Newtown Community as a whole.

"The police department’s prayers are with the Richman family right now, and we ask that the family be given privacy in this most difficult time,” the lieutenant added. 

Lt Bahamonde later told The Newtown Bee that the department has "brought in mental health providers to meet with and counsel our officers.

"This type of event is very hard for the entire town, but especially for emergency responders," Lt Bahamonde said.

Former First Selectman Pat Llodra told The Newtown Bee that Dr Richman’s death “brings deep sadness.

“My heart goes out to his family, hoping that prayers and compassion will help ease the hurt of this devastating loss. I pray, too, for all the families of loss, knowing that Jeremy's untimely death will bring great emotional pain,” Ms Llodra said.

The Avielle Foundation moved into office space within Edmond Town Hall last August. Since January 2018, the foundation has been hosted Brainstorm Experience programs at the town hall. The series has featured thought leaders, advocates, and celebrities from across society who offer unique perspectives on the care, science, strength, and vulnerability of the brain. Most programs have been presented to capacity or near-capacity audiences. 

The Board of Managers of Edmond Town Hall announced late Monday morning that the building would be closed for the day.

"The Edmond Town Hall Board of Managers and staff wishes to express our deepest sympathy to the Richman family, the Avielle Foundation, and the community," the board said via a statement. "Dr Richman was a well-respected and beloved member of the Edmond Town Hall family. We are deeply saddened by his passing."

In a statement shared with The Newtown Bee, Dr Krystal said in part that interacting with Dr Richman and his wife was inspiring.

"Few people, after a tragic loss, can give themselves so completely to making positive change. ... They immersed themselves in the complicated neuroscience, psychiatry, and sociology of gun violence and suicide," Dr Krystal said in part.

"We were shocked and heartbroken to learn of Jeremy’s death. His visibility and impact seemed to be growing. The Foundation’s mission of supporting research was taking shape. At a time when the darkness of school shootings and public violence seemed to be spreading, Jeremy was a bright light.

"We are greatly saddened by the triple tragedy of his death. We have lost someone who created something hopeful and constructive out of the horror and tragedy of the Sandy Hook shooting. We also have lost a much needed and highly effective advocate against violence. Lastly, we are saddened by the painful irony that someone who worked to end suicide would choose this path to end his life," Dr Krystal also stated.

Upon hearing the news, US Senator Chris Murphy tweeted “My God. This is awful, horrible, devastating news. Jeremy was a good friend and an unceasing advocate for better research into the brain’s violence triggers. He was with me in my office two weeks ago, excited as could be about the Avielle Foundation’s latest amazing work.”

Sen Murphy later spoke with The Newtown Bee about Dr Richman, calling the late neuro-pharmacologist a good friend.

“He was so committed to understanding why these mass shooting tragedies happen and why brains push people to acts of violence,” Sen Murphy said. “He threw himself into this line of work immediately after losing his daughter. He was excited about the work the Avielle Foundation was doing, which makes this morning’s news so unthinkable.”

Congresswoman Jahana Hayes said she, too, had recently met with Dr Richman.

“The news of Jeremy Richman’s death is heartbreaking. I recently met with Jeremy to learn about the Avielle Foundation, and was struck by how optimistic he was about the progress the foundation was making in understanding brain health. He spoke about how the foundation’s investments have led to broader study of brain chemistry and violence,” Ms Hayes said in a statement.

“Today’s news, along with the two recent suicides of Parkland students, further illuminates the fact that we must do more as a society to help victims of gun violence and their families grieve. These tragedies show that the trauma of gun violence extends far beyond the initial tragedy.

Sydney Aiello, 19, a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who was on campus on February 14, 2018, the day a gunman killed 17 people, including Sydney's best friend. Sydney took her life on March 17. Her parents told multiple media outlets that they believe she suffered from survivor's guilt.

Less than a week after Sydney's death another Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS student, 16-year-old Calvin Desir, took his life. The sophomore died on March 23.

Congresswoman Hayes said more must be done to help survivors and their support networks when tragedies occur.

“We have failed in this area, she said. "I am so thankful for Jeremy’s work and grieve today with his family and the rest of the Newtown community,” Ms Hayes said.

US Senator Richard Blumenthal reached out to The Newtown Bee to express his deep sadness after hearing the news of Dr Richman's death.

"I'm heartbroken ... just stunned," the Senator said. "Jeremy was such a champion and pioneer when it came to understanding mental health and violence prevention."

Sen Blumenthal said he was struck by Dr Richman's "extraordinary caring" when it came to his community, and his desire to make a difference in preventing future tragedies like the incident that took his daughter Avielle.

"He possessed a deeply valuable drive to explore the reasons and the triggers for violence, and other precipitating factors that contribute to destructive actions and impulses — and he opened so many insights for me in that area," Sen Blumenthal said. "He will be deeply missed."

Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue reached out to school staff and parents Monday morning, letting them know what had happened. 

“Jeremy has worked collaboratively with staff, community, and other foundations to support Newtown Public Schools. This is a difficult time for the entire school community and the Richman family,” Dr Rodrigue said in part. 

“We recognize that many of our staff and students have worked alongside Jeremy and members of the Avielle Foundation, and we have support personnel ready to address those students and staff who will struggle with this news.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the Richman family,” she wrote.

From Governor Ned Lamont, the following statement was received: 

"Annie and I are heartbroken for the Richman family. Thoughts and prayers just don't feel like enough in times like these. Words cannot even begin to express our sorrow."

State Representatives Mitch Bolinsky, J.P. Sredzinski and Raghib Allie-Brennan, and State Senator Tony Hwang issued the following statement on Monday regarding the unexpected passing of Dr Richman:

“We are shocked and saddened, as is the whole community, by this tragic news. After losing their daughter on December 14, 2012, Mr. Richman and his wife, Jennifer Hensel dedicated their lives to the Avielle Foundation, becoming a force in the support of brain-health, research, advocacy and making the world a better place.  Jeremy's accomplishments were an inspiration to many and we will miss him.  Please join us in keeping his family in our thoughts and prayers as we grieve his loss."

The delegation also offered a reminder that "Now is a good time to join hands and surround those you love with support and reassurance.  If you, or someone you know is in crisis, please reach out.  You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, or reach to the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741."

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