Anthony Skeens, The Triplicate

A sheriff's deputy fatally shot himself Sunday morning at the Del Norte County Superior Courthouse, authorities said.

Deputy Harold Esparza, 45, was discovered with a gunshot wound to the head in a holding cell at the courthouse around 2:30 p.m., sheriff's Commander Bill Steven said.

Esparza, who served as a bailiff, was off-duty at the time of the shooting, which apparently occurred about 8 a.m., Steven said.

An autopsy is scheduled today.

Esparza was a lifelong resident of Del Norte County and worked 19 years for the Sheriff's Office.

"Harold Esparza was a great deputy, but an even greater man," said Steven. "He was very popular and well-liked by all who knew him and worked with him."

"He was a very valued member of our agency and our department," said Sheriff Dean Wilson. "He had lots of friends inside the department and in the community for which he served."

Esparza was a volunteer for the Del Norte Search and Rescue Team and for the Crescent Fire Protection District.

"He was probably the nicest guy I have ever known. He was one of those guys who would do anything you asked of him," said Fire Chief Steve Wakefield. "He is going to be sorely missed by this agency and the community he served."

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