A 52-year-old Dover man was shot to death by police early Sunday morning, just hours after telling a suicide hotline operator that he planned to commit “suicide by cop.”

A 52-year-old Dover man with a history of mental illness was shot to death by police early Sunday morning, just hours after telling a suicide hotline operator that he planned to commit “suicide by cop.”

James Long was carrying a pellet gun when he was shot by Dover police officers at the County Club Apartments just after midnight, according to Dover Police Department spokesman Cpl. Mark Hoffman.

Police administered first aid until Long was taken to Kent General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The shooting occurred after Long had called a state-run crisis center late Saturday night and reported having suicidal thoughts, as well as a desire to be killed by police officers, Hoffman said.

The crisis center called the Dover Police Department, which dispatched officers to the apartment complex at 50 Greenway Square.

The officers arrived at 10:46 p.m. and made contact with Long, who spoke on the telephone with a trained negotiator.

At some point, Long refused to cooperate and ended communication with the negotiator, Hoffman said.

Officers then evacuated neighboring residents and went into the apartment about 12:03 a.m., at which point Long reportedly displayed what appeared to be a Colt semi-automatic handgun, he said. Officers later discovered that the weapon was a pellet gun.

A corporal and a patrolman first class both shot at Long, who was struck twice.

Long also booby-trapped his apartment with an improvised device designed to mix dangerous chemicals in an attempt to create a toxic gas, he said.

Neighboring residents were allowed to return to their homes about an hour after the shooting.

Sunday night, the only indication of the incident was a large dent and chipped paint on the door to Long’s apartment. A green and tan welcome mat lay in front of the door, along with an advertising circular for a local restaurant.

Frank Harris, who lives in the apartment directly below Long’s said he was surprised at the man’s actions, as described by police.

“I guess he was misunderstood by a lot of people,” Harris said. “I understood him completely. We were good friends.”

But Harris also said it was apparent Long had problems.

“I knew he needed help,” he said. “I told him to come and talk to me before he did anything rash. I wish that I’d have gone down there instead of going to sleep when I did. He might still be alive.”

Harris said that when police evacuated the residents of the building, he took his dog for a walk.

The officers involved – an unidentified 10-year veteran and an unidentified six-year veteran – have each been placed on administrative leave with pay until an internal investigation and an investigation by the Delaware Attorney General’s Office are completed.

Hoffman said Long had been the subject of nearly a half-dozen incidents in the past year, including one on June 7 when he called a crisis hotline and threatened a “suicide by cop.” In that instance, Dover police entered Long’s apartment and took him into custody after he refused to talk with a negotiator.

He was subsequently committed to the Ellendale Recovery Center, Hoffman said.

Long was committed to mental health facilities after two other run-ins with police this year.

On Feb. 22, he reportedly led police on a 14-minute car chase after officers attempted to stop him on suspicion of driving under the influence. At that time, he was committed to a mental health center in Dover.

On May 8,  he was committed at the Rockford Center, following a 25 minute police chase that occurred after officers again attempted to stop him on suspicion of DUI and other traffic violations, according to Hoffman.

On July 15, Dover police officers were sent to Long’s apartment after he called an out-of-state acquaintance and left voicemails indicating he was having suicidal thoughts, he said. Officers spoke with Long but determined there was not enough probable cause to have him involuntarily committed for a mental health evaluation.

Long’s most recent arrest came Aug. 20 when he was charged with possession of marijuana after police received a report of someone openly smoking pot in the area of Loockerman Street and Governors Avenue, Hoffman said.