Jeremy Richman, the father of one of the victims of the Sandy Hook mass shooting, was found dead after apparently killing himself in Newtown, Connecticut, on Monday morning, police said.
Authorities responded to the Edmond Town Hall around 7 a.m. to investigate the report of a suicide. They found Richman, 49, dead at the scene.
Police said his death was not suspicious, but did not release any other details. His body was transported to the Connecticut State Medical Examiner’s office for an autopsy expected to be performed today.
Richman, who had an office in the Edmond Town Hall, was a neuropharmacologist and a cofounder of the Avielle Foundation, named after his 6-year-old daughter. Avielle was fatally shot in her first-grade classroom at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
The foundation is "dedicated to preventing violence and building compassion through brain health research," according to its Twitter bio.
"This is a heart breaking 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," Lt. Aaron Bahamonde of the Newtown Police Department said in a statement.
Richman and Avielle's mother, Jennifer Hensel, were among the families of six Sandy Hook victims who had filed a defamation lawsuit last year against right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for claiming that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax.
The lawsuit had accused Jones and other conspiracy theorists, namely self-styled investigator and former cop Wolfgang Halbig, of perpetuating "a monstrous, unspeakable lie: that the Sandy Hook shooting was staged, and that the families who lost loved ones that day are actors who faked their relatives' deaths."
The lawsuit stated that Halbig's website — SandyHookJustice.com — once accused Richman of having fabricated his daughter's identity and faking her death to "steal money from hard-working Americans." The accusations were accompanied by photos of Richman, Hensel, and Avielle.
Halbig's website also claimed that Richman and Hensel continued to "deceive and defraud the American public and collect donations for The Avielle Foundation, for Avielle Richman claiming she is dead, when in reality, she is alive and was never their daughter," the lawsuit said.
Responding to Richman's death on Monday, Halbig told BuzzFeed News that his "prayers go to the family" but added that he stood by the claims on his website, saying that they were cited from a report that he had paid a forensic expert to write about the Sandy Hook shooting.
Alex Jones did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Richman's death comes after two Parkland teens who survived the mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 killed themselves.
On Saturday night, police said they were investigating the death of a 17-year-old male sophomore as an "apparent suicide." His death came a day after the funeral of 19-year-old Sydney Aiello, a Stoneman Douglas graduate who killed herself last Sunday after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut called Richman "a good friend and an unceasing advocate for better research into the brain's violence triggers."
Murphy said that when he met Richman two weeks ago, he was "excited as could be" about his foundation's latest work.
In a statement, the Avielle Foundation said, "Our hearts are shattered, and our heads are struggling to comprehend."
The foundation said that Richman 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."
"We are crushed to pieces, but this important work will continue, because, as Jeremy would say, we have to," the statement said.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.