A New Jersey sheriff fatally shot himself inside the bathroom of a popular Turkish restaurant, where he’d just been served a late lunch, according to multiple reports.
Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik was having a meal at Toro’s Restaurant on Tuesday shortly before his death, per several sources cited by NJ.com.
Witnesses recalled Berdnik disappearing into the restroom around 3:30 p.m. followed moments later by the sound of a gunshot ringing through the Clifton eatery.
More than a dozen police cruisers and emergency vehicles descended on the restaurant, which was closed in a bid to cooperate with authorities’ investigation. Nearby streets were blocked off and a pair of helicopters also responded to the scene, according to the Paterson Press.
Authorities have not provided further details.
A Clifton native and graduate of Clifton high school, Berdnik served the Clifton Police Department for 28 years before he became Passaic County Sheriff in 2011.
“Always, always readily available to offer any type of assistance that was needed. That was the type of public servant Richard Berdnik was,” Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh told News 12. “We are still trying to process this — it’s clearly something we didn’t see happening. I was with him yesterday. We swore in eight new officers and my last words to him were, ‘Sheriff, get in the picture with us.’”
Earlier in the day, Sayegh also presented a key to the city to the owner of Toros, Huseyin Bayram. The restaurant, which also has locations in Paterson and Montclair, was recognized for donating 10,000 meals to hospital staff during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sayegh was not alone in voicing his shock and sadness over the sheriff’s death. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker in a statement to NJ.com recalled Berdnik’s “distinguished career in law enforcement” and mourned the hole he leaves in the community.
Gov. Phil Murphy meanwhile, said: “Tammy and I were blessed to have counted Sheriff Berdnik as a close friend. We will miss him — and his leadership — dearly. And we are sending our prayers and condolences to Sheriff Berdnik’s wife, Monica, their four adult children, and the entire team at the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office.”
Berdnik’s death remains under investigation.