Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican candidate for governor, died Thursday, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot, police said.
There was no immediate motive for the apparent suicide, Clayton Police Chief Kevin Murphy said in a televised news conference.
The shooting took place only moments after Schweich set up an interview with the Associated Press and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, according to both news outlets.
The Post-Dispatch said Schweich on Tuesday morning confided to Editorial Page Editor Tony Messenger that he believed that John Hancock, the newly elected chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, was spreading false information that he, Schweich, was Jewish.
That was the topic Schweich wanted to discuss with the reporters, the newspaper said.
Schweich's grandfather was Jewish but the candidate was a member of the Church of St. Michael & St. George, an Episcopal congregation in Clayton, a suburb of St. Louis.
Schweich told Messenger he believed the mention of his heritage was intended to harm him politically in a gubernatorial primary in which many Republican voters are evangelical Christians, according to the Post-Dispatch.
Hancock did not have a "specific recollection of telling anybody that Schweich was Jewish," but he may have used it as a description, similar to saying, "I'm Presbyterian and somebody else is Catholic." Hancock said he had thought Schweich was Jewish.
Hancock said he and Schweich discussed the matter in a phone conversation in November. "He told me he was aware I had made anti-Semitic remarks and I told him it was not true," the GOP leader told the newspaper.
"This whole thing doesn't make any sense," Hancock said Thursday. "Three months of allegations about me that are not true don't make any sense. Suicide doesn't make any sense. It is a tragedy."
During his news conference, Police Chief Murphy gave scant details of the shooting, but said there was no evidence that it was anything other than suicide.
"What we know at this point suggests an apparent suicide," Murphy told reporters. "There is nothing to support anything other than that at this point."
Murphy said he didn't have information about whether Schweich left a note. An autopsy and investigation are pending.
The weapon used was a handgun, the police chief said, and a single shot was fired.
There was one other family member in the house when the shooting took place, but Murphy would not disclose who was there. Family and friends have been cooperating with investigators, Murphy said.
Schweich, 54, was married and the father of two.
According to Murphy, Clayton police arrived at the Schweich home about 9:48 a.m. after a report of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Schweich was pronounced dead at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis.
Schweich had called AP at 9:16 a.m. inviting a reporter to his home for a 2:30 p.m. interview, according to the news service. The reporter spoke to Schweich again at 9:35 a.m.
Schweich had served as auditor since January 2011 and won reelection in November to a second, four-year term.
He announced a month ago that he would seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2016, and was gearing up for an expected primary fight against Catherine Hanaway, a former U.S. attorney and Missouri House speaker.
Hanaway said in a statement that she was "deeply saddened" by Schweich's death and described him as "an extraordinary man with an extraordinary record of service to our state and nation."