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Suicide victim identified as Groton firefighter

By Izaskun E. Larrañeta

Publication: theday.com

Published July 24. 2012 4:00AM   Updated July 25. 2012 12:52PM

Groton — A Poquonnock Bridge fireman who also owned a local business took his life Tuesday morning, ending an armed standoff with police at the University of Connecticut's Avery Point campus.

Timothy Devine, 30, of 33 Crown Knoll Court had been a member of the Poquonnock Bridge Fire Department for four years and also was the owner of the fitness center CrossFit Groton on Bridge Street.

"We are deeply saddened," Fire Chief Todd M. Paige said. "We are a close-knit family. It's a tragic, tragic loss."

Paige said that Devine was a dedicated firefighter with an exemplary record. He said there was nothing to indicate that he was upset or despondent. Devine last worked a 24-hour shift Friday and had the next three days off, the chief said. Friends said Devine ran a charity weightlifting event on Sunday.

Paige said he was going to work with the fire department's Employee Assistance Program to offer counseling to members of the department.

A sign at Devine's business said it was closed until further notice.

Local police were notified of a despondent person who could be suicidal and armed at about 5 p.m. Monday, according to Lt. J. Paul Vance, the state police spokesman. Police located Devine's car on campus at about 10 p.m. and soon after found Devine standing on some rocks near the shore. He refused police requests to surrender his weapon, Vance said.

Devine was a 2010 graduate of Avery Point, according to a university spokeswoman, and thus familiar with the campus.

Local and state police talked to Devine via cellphone until he threw his phone away, Vance said. They then tried to disarm him through non-lethal means by using such things as bean bags, loud noises and bright lights, he said.

Devine shot himself at about 4 a.m., police said, and was pronounced dead at the scene.

A group of high school students in a summer program was on campus at the time, according to Stephanie Reitz, a university spokeswoman. She said they were guarded by UConn police, and parents were given the option of picking them up. No college students were at the campus, which does not have dormitories.

The school sent out an alert at 11:35 p.m. Monday that there was an armed man on campus and instructed anyone on campus to leave.

On his CrossFit website, Devine said the loss of friend and co-worker Todd Williamson inspired him to open the gym about a year ago.

"His ordeal brought to light the true importance of health and wellness," the website states.

Friends at CrossFit New London said Devine, who was not married and did not have children, was in good spirits when they saw him Sunday. He held a weightlifting benefit Sunday with proceeds to benefit Autism Speaks. Angel Bartlett said the event raised $2,000.

"He was a great guy," Bartlett said. "He helped everyone. He was so charitable."

Bartlett said he also was a great supporter of firefighters, especially those in New London who were put on notice that they might lose their jobs.

"He offered them free workouts because he wanted them to be in good spirits," Bartlett said.

Bartlett and others at the New London CrossFit said they couldn't understand why someone who promoted wellness and life would take his own life.

"We want him to be remembered as a person who would do anything for others," Lindsey Donelin said. "He would be the first person to help you. I'm at a loss for words."

Police said they will do an extensive background investigation to sort out why Devine took his life. They would not comment any further on the circumstances surrounding his death.

Students who returned to campus when it reopened at 8 a.m. Tuesday said they didn't know what to think when they received the text alert Monday night.

"It was scary," said Leigha Krize, a marine science student who will be a senior this fall. "We're really a small community here, so I really didn't know what to think. Not too many people are on campus at that hour, but still, there are some students around conducting late-night experiments."

Krize said her parents received an email alert notifying them of the campus situation and called her first thing in the morning to make sure she was OK.

"They just wanted to know that I was safe," Krize said. "You hear about other gunmen on college campuses, so it was slightly terrifying that one was here."

Thaxter Tewksbury, director of Project Oceanology, said there were two overnight camps with 40 students staying on campus.

He said parents were called, and only one opted to pick up their child. He said the students were sleeping during the incident and were staying on the opposite end of the campus from the incident.

"You couldn't see or hear a thing," Tewksbury said. "The campus and police presence was really great. They were with us throughout the lockdown."

i.larraneta@theday.com

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