Officer’s suicide note proclaimed innocence

Nino Santiago Sr.

A Carbondale police officer who killed himself while on duty said in a suicide letter that he had expected to be arrested the next day in connection with a sexual offense and was worried he would go to prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

“I am innocent of the charges and I take that to the grave with me,” Nino Santiago Sr., 48, said in a letter found in his police car and recently made public by the Garfield County Sheriff’s Department.

Santiago was found dead early March 22 in a parking lot near a public school. A Sheriff’s Department report indicates he shot himself in the head with his police handgun and died instantly in the police car.

Santiago had been under investigation since earlier this year by the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department on allegations of a sexual offense involving a minor girl.

The day after Santiago’s death, a woman who used to work with him in the Denver area contacted a Garfield sheriff’s detective. She said Santiago called her March 20 and asked her to participate in what he described as a prank on a co-worker, the Garfield sheriff’s report said. According to the report, the woman said Santiago asked her to have a young female call his cell phone and leave a message saying, “We got you. HA HA HA. Now what?”

The woman said Santiago told her the girl needed to whisper the message, and that neither the woman nor the girl should send a text or talk about his request on Facebook.

Santiago was due to be interviewed by Arapahoe investigators the day after his death. Arapahoe Sheriff Grayson Robinson did not return a call Monday but previously has told media the investigation was in its early stages and investigators hadn’t determined the allegations’ validity.

Santiago expressed doubt about the ability to fight such a charge.

“The child is believed immediately just because she’s a child,” Santiago wrote.

He wrote that he would rather be dead than go to prison.

“I worked in both a jail and prison and I know what goes on there, especially if one is in there for crimes against a child,” he said.

Santiago also wrote, cryptically, “I hope this makes that family accusing me of this very happy and maybe now they can get their citizenship.”

Santiago had informed Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling about the investigation two weeks before his death. He also proclaimed his innocence then, and with no charges having been filed, Schilling decided that he could remain on the job. That decision has drawn local media scrutiny. Schilling declined to comment Monday.

Santiago wrote in his suicide note, “I apologize if I dragged the Carbondale Police name in the dirt.”


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