Carbondale cop takes own life near school
A man who died of an apparent suicide near a Carbondale elementary school Monday night was a police officer for the town.
Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said Nino Santiago Sr. died of a what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his police car in a parking lot shared by Crystal River Elementary School and a nearby church. Santiago was on duty at the time, Vallario said.
Classes were canceled at the school Tuesday to manage the scene and minimize the effect on the community, the Sheriff’s Department said.
Carbondale police asked the Sheriff’s Department to lead the investigation into the case to avoid any potential conflicts of interest. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation is assisting.
Vallario said he heard Santiago left a note, but he hasn’t yet been told of its contents.
He said he assumed Santiago used his service weapon but wasn’t sure. Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling said he can’t release that information and referred other questions about the investigation to the Sheriff’s Department.
However, he said in a Sheriff’s Department news release, “Santiago was a great police officer and citizen. Our thoughts, prayers and sympathy go out to his family.”
Service information is pending.
Santiago joined the department in May 2008. His son, Nino Santiago Jr., was hired by the department later that year as an ordinance officer.
Both father and son had served in the Marines. Santiago Sr. had joined the Marines in 1980 and served in the Persian Gulf War before being honorably discharged, according to biographical information on the town website. He spent three years in the Army National Guard and currently was in the Air Force National Guard, which he joined in 2001. He had been to Iraq and Afghanistan twice.
Santiago was born in upstate New York but raised until he was 8 in Puerto Rico. He was fluent in Spanish.
He previously worked as a correctional officer, a prison boot camp drill sergeant and a detention officer. He moved to Colorado in 1998 and started as a private investigator before being hired in 2004 as an investigator for Pinnacol Insurance.
He enjoyed working out and playing and coaching baseball and softball and was a standout soccer player and baseball/softball player in high school and the Marines.