WATCH: Cpl. Ron Francis, who gained national attention for smoking medicinal marijuana while in uniform and was open about his struggle to cope with PTSD, died on Monday in an apparent suicide. As Ross Lord reports, his death is raising questions about how to help those who suffer in silence.
A New Brunswick Mountie who gained national attention for smoking medical marijuana while in uniform was found dead in his home Monday afternoon.
The death of RCMP Cpl. Ron Francis was confirmed to Global News by his lawyer T.J. Burke, who said Francis was found dead around 4 p.m.
“Ron was more than a client of mine. He was a childhood friend and fellow member of the Maliseet Nation,” said Burke in an email to Global News.
Currently there is no word on the cause of death.
RCMP Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown confirmed Tuesday RCMP responded to Francis’ home Monday. Brown said RCMP were working with Francis as recently as Sunday.
“Ron was so much more than PTSD,” Brown said. “He will remain in our memory a very proud member of the RCMP.”
“Ron said, ‘It’s not a weakness to ask for help. It’s strength.'”
Francis, a 21-year veteran of the force, had been facing six criminal charges, including two counts of assaulting fellow officers and one count of breaching an undertaking not to possess or consume alcohol or non-prescribed drugs.
He pleaded guilty to three of counts just before his trial was to begin and was scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 3.
Francis spoke out against RCMP policy prohibiting officers from smoking medical marijuana while in uniform. He was ordered to return his red serge by superiors last November, but criticized the RCMP for not doing enough to support officers with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
The advocacy group “Families of the RCMP for PTSD Awareness” posted a message on their website about the passing of Francis.
“Our hearts go out to Ron who struggled for so long, his family who journeyed with him, and all those who knew, worked with and loved him…” read part of the statement. “We send a plea to each and every one of you to reach out to those who are retired or those you know are struggling with PTSD, to both the members and their families, and let them know they are not alone, that you care, we care and we are all are here for each other.”
-With files from Emily Baron Cadloff