Tom Schweich, Missouri’s state auditor and a leading Republican candidate to become the state’s next governor, fatally shot himself Thursday at his Clayton home in what police are calling an “apparent suicide.” Schweich was 54.
Schweich’s death, which came less than a month after he officially launched his gubernatorial campaign, stunned Missouri elected officials, who remembered Schweich as a smart and dedicated public servant.
Clayton Police responded to an emergency call at Schweich’s home at 9:48 a.m. Thursday, according to a Kansas City Star report. Schweich’s office released a statement at 11:18 a.m. that said he had been taken to the hospital for a “medical situation.” His office later confirmed his death at 1:30 p.m.
Clayton Police said he died of a single gunshot wound.
“It is with great sadness that I confirm the passing of Missouri state Auditor Tom Schweich today,” Schweich spokesman Spence Jackson said in an email. “Please keep in mind his wife Kathy and two children.”
News of Schweich’s death was met with shock and grief at the Capitol and among lawmakers on social media.
Gov. Jay Nixon ordered that all flags at state facilities be lowered to half-staff. Nixon and Lieutenant Gov. Peter Kinder joined legislators in the House chamber for an impromptu prayer service, the Associated Press reports.
Nixon said in a statement that Schweich was a “brilliant, devoted and accomplished public servant who dedicated his career to making Missouri and the world a better place.”
Catherine Hanaway, the former Missouri House speaker and Schweich’s opponent in the Republican gubernatorial primary, called him “an extraordinary man with an extraordinary record of service to our state and nation.”
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, who’s running for governor as a Democrat, released a statement calling Schweich “a lifelong public servant for our state and country.”
Authorities did not say whether Schweich left a note. They also did not release other details of a pending investigation. His autopsy is scheduled for Friday.
Tony Messenger, an editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said in a column that Schweich believed John Hancock, the new Missouri Republican Party chairman, was going to spread rumors that Schweich was Jewish. Schweich, who was Episcopalian but had Jewish heritage, told Messenger he believed the claims were intended to damage him politically.
Schweich also contacted the Associated Press Thursday morning and invited reporters from both outlets to his Clayton home for a 2:30 p.m. interview to address the rumors he believed Hancock would spread.
Hancock told the Post-Dispatch on Thursday that he may have mistakenly said Schweich was Jewish but that he “certainly would not have said it in a derogatory manner.”
Schweich grew up in the St. Louis area before graduating from Yale University and Harvard Law School. His career included work as chief of staff for U.S. Sen. John Danforth, a stint at the United Nations and time working for the U.S. State Department.
He was first elected Missouri auditor in 2010, and he ran unopposed in 2014.
Schweich is survived by his wife, Kathy, and two children.