Sgt. Linhong Li, 33, had been in touch with the NYPD’s Early Intervention Unit sometime prior to Tuesday night, when he shot himself in the head inside his home on 178th Street in Fresh Meadows, the sources said.
“They were in contact with him,” a source told The Post, although it wasn’t clear if Li had sought out the unit on his own, or was referred to it by another officer.
“It’s like the first step to getting help,” said the source of the unit, which helps both cops and civilian department employees talk through and cope with their problems.
That help came too late for Li, as the seven-year veteran assigned to upper Manhattan’s 24th Precinct became the 10th active-duty cop to take his own life this year — nearly doubling the annual departmental average of five, the sources said.
“I saw the wife. She was screaming at the door,” said Fabio Acquista, who manages a restaurant next door to Li’s home, recalling the dramatic moments after the tragedy was discovered at around 8 p.m.
“Out of nowhere, maybe 30 cops stopped by,” said Acquista, 31. “Then I just heard them shouting, ‘Bring him to the bus!’ The ambulance was just pulling up and they brought him inside [it].
“They tried to resuscitate him for 15 to 20 minutes,” Acquista added. “You could see them pumping his chest.”
It did not appear that Li left behind a note explaining his motive, but a woman who identified herself as a friend wrote in an online remembrance that Li’s wife said he had been “bullied” on the job.
“She called me and said, ‘I love him more than anyone, and I found him,’ ” wrote Yulia Yakovleva-Yang on Facebook. “ ‘He was happy at home, they bullied him at work.’ ”
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill vowed Wednesday in his own online post to continue fighting the issue striking at the heart of his department.
“Tragically, we have lost another NYPD member to suicide,” he tweeted. “We’re taking great steps to end this mental-health crisis, and we vow to always keep fighting Please take care of yourselves and regularly check up on your colleagues and loved ones. #StopSuicide.”
O’Neill and other city officials have urged cops to have the courage to seek help, and announced a slew of new initiatives, including the addition of an app on department-issued smartphones linking to emergency mental health services.
But department insiders voiced concerns that not enough was being done to help troubled cops and prevent the grim toll from rolling into double digits before year’s end.
“At this point, this is an epidemic and it’s getting worse,” said one source. “Something needs to be done.”
The source proposed that cops be required to meet with a psychologist once a year to cope with both the stresses of the job and everyday life.
“We see things that people read in the paper, but you gotta remember, a cop is living that,” said the insider. “Plus, you have stuff going on at home.”
Another source pointed to “a phenomenon called suicide contagion,” not unlike the way a communicable disease spreads from person to person.
“Once you hear somebody does it,” suicide might make sense as a solution to your own problems, explained the second source, who is familiar with the department’s efforts to fight the scourge.
“The cause is depression, mental illness, but a breakup, problem at work, family issue, that’s a trigger,” said the source, who also noted cops’ constant closeness to an easy way to kill themselves.
“Cops obviously have access to a gun, whereas the general public doesn’t,” said the source. “If you’re depressed, even just for a couple of seconds, you can reach for a gun.”
The insider said that the main issue with convincing cops to come forward is eliminating the stigma.
“If you report some kind of mental issue, depression, you lose your gun,” said the source. “You lose your assignment.”
But that source offered a glimmer of hope, saying that younger cops tend to be more willing to seek help in times of need.
But the first source said while the search for preventative measures moves forward, so too does the grind of cops’ daily lives.
“Some people deal with their own situation, then they come to work and they have to deal with somebody else’s situation,” the source said. “It takes a toll on you.”