HAMILTON (Mercer) — A police officer known as "Officer Friendly" to the thousands of children he worked with in his career took his own life while driving on Monday, according to police.

Officer Tom White, 44, was found unconscious and unresponsive with a gunshot wound to the head behind the wheel of his SUV on Nottingham Way. He was found about 3:10 p.m. after colliding with a white commercial van, Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri said.

Remembering Hamilton Officer Tom White
(Brian McCarthy)

Prosecutors had previously reported the incident as a crash and gave no public indication that emergency responders had found him with a gunshot wound.

The driver of the van was not injured, Onofri said.

An autopsy concluded that White's gunshot was self-inflicted. His death was ruled a suicide.

“Officer Thomas White was a fine officer that performed his job well and was extremely well-liked. He will be greatly missed,"Hamilton Police Chief James W. Collins said in a statement Tuesday. "On behalf of the entire Hamilton Police Division, our thoughts and prayers are with Officer White’s family.”

Black and purple bunting was hung on the front of Hamilton Police headquarters on Tuesday as the flag flew at half-staff.

Many students at the Reynolds Middle School wore blue to class in memory of the White. He was the school's LEAD (Law Enforcement Against Drugs) officer in the department's Educational Services Unit and taught bicycle safety.

Parent Michele Angermiller told New Jersey 101.5 she was shocked at the news. "I'm flabbergasted,"she said.

"He was a very special person and a terrific role model as an officer. In addition to losing a fine member of their police force, the community lost a genuinely great man," Lawrence Township PBA Local #1119 wrote on their Facebook page about White.

White worked in Hamilton since his graduation from the Mercer County Police Academy in 2009. He was a member of the Hamilton PAL Board of Directors as the director of the Safety Town Program.

Onofri asked anyone with information about the collision to call 609-989-6317.

New Jersey’s nationally-recognized Cop2Cop helpline connects troubled officers with retired law enforcement at 866-267-2267.

If you feel you or someone you know may be in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-TALK, or the NJ Hopeline, 1-855-654-6735.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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