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Groton - The doors to the City of Groton Police Department were draped in black bunting after a veteran officer was found dead in his office Monday.
"The officer found dead in the police department at about 8:30 this morning was Lt. Thomas Forbes," police Chief Bruno Giulini said late Monday afternoon in a somber and succinct press conference, accompanied only by Mayor Marian Galbraith and department spokesman Lt. Robert Martin.
Giulini said Forbes' body was taken to the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Farmington, where an autopsy today will determine the manner and cause of death. He offered no further comment.
Sources close to and within the department said Forbes, 53, a 30-year veteran, suffered a gunshot wound. A state police spokeswoman said there was no criminal aspect involved in Forbes' death.
Mayor Galbraith, who was sworn in just a month ago, offered a brief statement.
"Today the City of Groton Police Department and indeed the entire City of Groton lost a valued and cherished member of our City family when Lieutenant Tom Forbes passed away," she said. "Lt. Forbes was well known and respected in this community as an outstanding police officer and a wonderful man. Our hearts go out to his family as well as to all of his brothers and sisters on the city police force. He will hold a place of respect and honor in our hearts and memories."
The officials took no questions from a small group of reporters and departed quietly from the auditorium in the Groton City Municipal Building, which houses both the city's administrative offices and the police department.
Earlier in the day, state police blocked access to the police department. Several barriers stood at the entrance to the parking lot, and plainclothes officers manned the front entrance to the department. Among the few vehicles allowed in was a chaplain's, who arrived at 10:15 a.m.
On the City Hall side of the building, business continued as usual. People paid bills and conducted routine business, apparently unaware of the death that had occurred hours earlier at the adjoining police department or that an investigation was ongoing.
Former mayor Dennis Popp called Forbes a dedicated officer who was proud to have graduated from the FBI Academy last year.
"My first reaction was shock," Popp said. "I struggled to control my stomach and tears. I couldn't control the tears."
Popp remembered Forbes as a former union officer and a representative for the police department on the city's retirement board. "Sure, we had times we disagreed, but we were always able to get past the words," he said.
He also remembered Forbes as a good officer and a good man, one who dropped in on him on Popp's last day as mayor just a month ago.
"He said, 'Thanks, I enjoyed working for you.' We expressed mutual respect and gratitude. I appreciated that. He was that kind of a man," Popp said. "Tom was dedicated to the city police department. He showed up at almost every event."
Forbes was also co-chairman of Function 4, public safety and security, of Regional Emergency Management and Homeland Security. As such, he recently oversaw the training of officers from 12 law-enforcement departments in the region as they learned how to respond to an "active shooter."
"This is a sad day for the city. This kind of thing is hard. It's hard on the department and the entire city. It's a very small and close community," Popp said.
Staff Writer Izaskun E. Larrañeta contributed to this story.