WFPD Officer shares personal story in book

Published: Jul. 7, 2023 at 10:24 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - Last week, we highlighted mental health in police officers, we spoke to WFPD Sgt. Charlie Eipper about his journey.

Sgt. Eipper said he thanks his faith and family for helping him overcome his battle with depression

“You kind of have some wisdom now looking back on how to take on the tough things of the job and put them in the right place so that it doesn’t pile up and then just hit you all at one time so, so it’s been good,” Eipper said.

The Wichita Falls native is a former helicopter pilot for the Army and has been in law enforcement for 30 years, serving roles as a SWAT team sniper and task force leader.

He is currently the Public Information Officer for Wichita Falls Police Department but much like the military, Eipper said being a police officer was never in the picture for him.

“It was something I had actually never thought about but again I had another friend whose dad was on the force and had been on for years and years and so I decided to give it a try. I joined and once I got out of the academy and hit the street. I could just tell it was in my blood,” Eipper said.

That feeling would soon be questioned, after he had a special encounter with a group of Christians.

“I had a group come up to me when I was actually working one night at a store and they were talking to me about it and basically started using other scripture to show that I could not be faithful to God and still be in an occupation where I would have to kill someone,” Eipper said.

‘Thou Shall Not Kill’ is a verse Eipper said stuck with him after that encounter. The true test of his faith would soon come on a winter night on January 10th, 1999 when his SWAT team received a call of a man who barricaded himself in his house and was armed and dangerous.

“This subject pointed a firearm at an off-duty officer that was on the scene helping the mom to get out of the house. something just triggered my mind and says you know we know he’s got a firearm in the house. we probably need to have a sniper position to protect our arrest team,” Eipper said. “And it ended up, it was a good idea like because he did come out of the house and he fired the weapon a couple of times, and the last time he did it was toward the direction of our arrest team and that was when I had to use deadly force to protect them.”

This deadly force was Eipper firing his rifle three times with one hitting the suspect. Although he was spiritually at ease, it would take 14 years for him to realize, he had a much bigger problem, mentally.

“I still remember it was May 3rd, 2013 in the afternoon my whole gang unit was in there and several officers and dispatchers. She was a nurse practitioner from the mental health field and she had a PowerPoint that had six symptoms listed up there and she said if you had any two of these for more than two weeks or more, then you were clinically depressed and I looked up there and I had all six of them for months,” Eipper said.

Right then and there he knew something was wrong and started having a panic attack thinking about it right there in his seat. All of the traumatic events that had happened in his career to that point finally caught up with him.

“Well, the scariest thing was I didn’t know what was wrong with me and so I was reaching out to everyone including the doctor that was on our SWAT team with us at that time. Getting over the ‘after finding out its mental illness, its anxiety’ is getting over that stigma of ‘it should be shameful’ I felt ashamed I didn’t want to tell anybody, I felt weak,” Eipper said. “My mentor help me get past that of understanding, ‘Well this is an injury like anything else in the rest of the body is so you need doctors, you need medicine, you need prayer and all of that should be integrated’ and once I got past that and learned to be transparent about this vulnerability that I had I began to heal and began to feel much better.”

His experience prompted him to write his book “Jesus Christ On Killing”. In the book, Eipper entails the battle he had with discerning if taking someone’s life was justifiable in his line of work while still being a Christian.

After years of battling anxiety and depression and overcoming it, Sgt. Charlie Eipper encourages all first responders to speak up if they are experiencing something.

“Make sure that you can talk to one another, be transparent. Don’t make it taboo or something to be ashamed about. Get it out there. So one of the things I want to share is let’s be real about what we see and what we experience and what we feel, don’t bottle it up” Eipper said.

If you want to check out Sgt. Eippers book, ‘Jesus On Killing’ you can find it here.