Thomas J. "Jake" Waldrop, 58, an assistant federal public defender, was found dead in his car in the parking deck of the State Bar of Georgia on Tuesday afternoon.
An Atlanta Police report said Waldrop was killed by a single gunshot to the chest. A rifle was found in the vehicle along with a handwritten note, the report said. "There were no signs of a struggle or foul play and the scene appeared to be consistent with that of a suicide," it added.
Bar president Robin Frazer Clark said Waldrop regularly parked in the deck attached to the bar building on Marietta Street, which is across the street from the federal defender's office. Clark said a security guard discovered Waldrop's body at about 2 p.m. on the 10th floor of the deck as he made his rounds.
"The State Bar is obviously saddened at the loss of one of our members, especially one so young," Clark said. "We will be working on new ideas to make our members and their officemates and family and friends more aware of the risk of suicide and what we can each do to help prevent it."
Waldrop was a career federal defender who started out as an intern with the program and stayed all his life, said Kish & Lietz partner Paul Kish, who served as Waldrop's supervisor when he was a federal defender.
"I knew Jake from his first days as a lawyer," said Kish. "He was part of Georgia State University's very first law class, and he worked so hard we ended up giving him a job. He started out slow, but he blossomed into a fantastic lawyer who excelled at his job and truly cared about his clients."
Kish counted Waldrop among his best friends, he said.
"He was a nut, and a nut-job, and everybody loved him. Nobody could stay mad at him," Kish said. "I heard that there were GBI agents leaving the federal building in tears when they heard about it."
"Jake was a true believer and a fearless advocate for all his clients," said Chilivis, Cochran, Larkins & Bever partner Brian McEvoy, who first met Waldrop when he was a law clerk in Georgia's Middle District, and who later served as a federal prosecutor before going into criminal defense.
"He had a big spirit and was fearless in the service of his clients," McElvoy said.