Sheriff found dead in home amid investigation into possible training violations

A Texas sheriff was found dead inside his home this week, just days after news surfaced that he was under investigation by a state agency, according to a local media report.

Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant was found dead in his Stephenville, home at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sgt. Dub Gillum, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, told The Washington Post.

“Our community is extremely saddened by this news,” Erath County Judge Tab Thompson said. “It’s a very, very sad situation. Extremely tragic. And our thoughts and prayers are with the Bryant family during this very difficult time.”

Gillum said the Texas Rangers, the lead investigative division of the state police, were looking into the death and that authorities were waiting on a medical examiner’s report before releasing further details.

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“We’re kind of at the medical examiner’s mercy, depending on his workload,” Gillum said. “Usually something like this would take precedent, but not always.”

The Stephenville Empire-Tribune, citing local officials, reported that Bryant was found with “an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.” Thompson on Tuesday said that while there was no official word on whether the death was a suicide, “it appears that way.” When asked to clarify why it appeared as though the death was a suicide, Thompson said he was not at the inquest, so he had no information.

“We served 20 years together as elected officials in Erath County,” Thompson said, “and I considered Sheriff Bryant a friend, and we had a good working relationship.”

Stephenville is about 105 miles southwest from Dallas. An interim sheriff has been appointed for the county, Thompson said.

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Bryant was sheriff of Erath County at the time former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was killed at a shooting range in February 2013, along with a friend, Chad Littlefield. A Marine Corps veteran, Eddie Ray Routh, was convicted for the killings and sentenced to life in prison. Kyle’s story was the subject of the 2014 movie “American Sniper.”

The Empire-Tribune earlier this month reported that the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, also known as TCOLE, was investigating Bryant, who told the newspaper he didn’t know about the investigation, and denied any wrongdoing.

Here’s what the Empire-Tribune reported, though:

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But a county official speaking on the agreement that their name would not be used in this report, said Bryant is under investigation for allegedly having a former deputy complete his annual training.

“I know there is an investigation because I was interviewed,” the county official said.

The official went on to say the investigation began when former sheriff’s deputy Cameron Ray applied for a job with the Stephenville Police Department, and on the application disclosed that he had completed Bryant’s training while he worked at the sheriff’s office.

Gretchen Grigsby, director of government relations with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, confirmed Tuesday that the investigation is still ongoing.

“I can tell you the sheriff had self-reported possible training violations earlier this year, and that initiated an investigation by our enforcement division,” Grigsby said.

She did not provide additional details on the possible violations. Thompson, the judge, also said there was an ongoing, active investigation regarding the sheriff’s department. Bryant told the Empire-Tribune that he self-reported after Ray, the former deputy, did not get the position he applied for at the Stephenville Police Department.

“When I found out it cost Cameron the job, I decided to self-report and notify TCOLE about what had happened,” the longtime sheriff told the newspaper. “And that’s all I know.”