NYPD suffers 27 deaths from COVID-19, including 9/11 cancer survivor, as virus hits hard across US

NEW YORK — New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea on Wednesday announced two more COVID-19 deaths among the department’s ranks, bringing the agency’s death toll to 27 as law enforcement agencies across the country are hit hard by the coronavirus.

“With profound sadness, I inform you of the loss of two additional members of our NYPD family,” Shea wrote on Twitter. “Detective Robert Cardona and traffic enforcement Agent Carol Ryer lost their battles with #COVID19 today.

“The hearts of all members of the NYPD are heavy as we vow to #NeverForget.”

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COVID-19 is not the first job-related health crisis Cardona had faced.

“Detective Robert Cardona is a 19-year veteran and leaves behind an 8-year-old son,” Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison tweeted. “While assigned to the 13th Precinct detective Squad, Robert was a 911 cancer survivor and dedicated DEA delegate.”

With each new death, a new slide, which includes a face, a rank or job title and an “end of watch” date, is added to a video COVID-19 memorial Shea shares with his announcements. And with each new death, Shea again offers his sympathy to the loved ones left behind.

#Detective Robert Cardona was a family man, loved being an #nypd officer, a cancer survivor who had been on the job just...

Posted by Kemberly Richardson on Thursday, April 16, 2020

We mourn the loss of TEA Carol Ryer who worked at Bronx Traffic Enforcement, and served over 27 years. She succumbed to the Covid-19 virus. Our condolences to her loved ones. #FidelisAdMortem

Posted by NYPD 52 Precinct on Wednesday, April 15, 2020

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A similar roll call of the dead is posted on the homepage of the NYPD’s website.

The deaths of Cardona and Ryer come on the heels of the loss of 911 dispatcher Denise Prince, who died Tuesday. Prince had been with the department for nearly 21 years.

On Monday, the department lost Irving Cruz, a supervising dispatcher. Cruz was a U.S. Navy veteran and 18-year member of the department, Shea said.

Detective Jeffrey Scalf, Detective Raymond Abear and auxiliary Capt. Mohamed Rahaman also died of COVID-19 complications Monday.

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New York City has been one of the hardest-hit hot spots for COVID-19, which has sickened more than two million people across the globe. According to The New York Times, the city on Tuesday sharply increased its death toll by more than 3,700 after authorities started including those victims who never officially tested positive but were presumed to have died of the virus.

The data released by the New York City Health Department drove the death toll in the city to more than 10,000.

Among the dead are more than 50 Metropolitan Transportation Authority workers. For the police department, the dead include a mix of detectives and patrol officers, auxiliary officers and civilian employees.

The deaths began March 26, when administrative assistant Giacomina Barr-Brown and custodian Dennis Dickson became the department’s first casualties.

See the listing of NYPD officers and civilian employees who had died of COVID-19 as of Wednesday in the tweet below.

It was not clear Thursday how many law enforcement officers had died of COVID-19 complications nationwide. The Officer Down Memorial Page, which includes a database of line-of-duty deaths dating back to 1786, has begun an “honor roll” of confirmed deaths stemming from the pandemic.

As of Thursday morning, just eight officers were listed. None of the New York City deaths had been recorded.

“We continue to work with dozens of other agencies that have suffered COVID-19 related deaths as they work to make confirmed or presumed determinations of line-of-duty status,” the page read.

One of the confirmed deaths is that of Detroit police Capt. Jonathan Parnell, a 31-year veteran and head of the department’s homicide division. Parnell died March 24.

According to CNN, Parnell was talking to a friend and coworker about returning to work just hours before he died.

“He was dedicated to this job to the last breath he took,” Sgt. Dana Russell told the network.

Down in Florida, deputies in two neighboring counties died within a day of one another. Broward County Deputy Shannon Bennett died April 3 and Palm Beach County Sgt. Jose Diaz Ayala died the following day. Bennett, who had been with the agency for 12 years, worked as a school resource officer at Deerfield Beach Elementary School.

Ayala, who had multiple underlying health conditions before contracting COVID-19, had been with his agency for 14 years.

Bennett’s death gained additional national attention earlier this month after the Florida Fraternal Order of Police filed a complaint against Davie Police Chief Dale Engle which claimed the small-town chief berated officers for their concerns over the virus that killed Bennett, who was gay.

According to the complaint, Engle “allegedly berated them, and yelled about a ‘... backstory’ which proclaimed that Deputy Shannon Bennett contracted and died from the virus because he was a “homosexual who attended homosexual ‘sexual’ events.”

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In El Paso County, Colorado, Deputy Jeff Hopkins was exposed to the coronavirus working at the jail’s intake. He died April 1 after 20 years with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

His positive COVID-19 test came back the day after he died, according to KKTV in Colorado Springs.

In Chicago, Sgt. Clifford Martin died Friday, just one day after colleague Officer Marco DiFranco, a narcotics officer who worked alongside his brother, was buried following his April 2 death of complications from the virus.

ABC7 in Chicago reported that the services for DiFranco, a 21-year veteran who became the city’s first officer killed by COVID-19, were not typical. Instead of a funeral service and bagpipes played at his gravesite, a mile-long line of police vehicles sat parked outside the funeral home, where only DiFranco’s immediately family was allowed inside.

“The sadness is compounded by our inability to give him the kind of send-off that is typical for a Chicago police officer whose life was taken in the line of duty,” interim police Superintendent Charlie Beck said, according to the news station. “We’re doing our absolute best to recognize the sacrifice, to recognize the daily sacrifices of first responders and healthcare workers during this time of pandemic.”

Coworkers of the officer, along with dignitaries including Beck and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, remained in their vehicles as they paid their respects. According to the news station, the procession then followed DiFranco’s hearse to a cemetery in Des Plaines, where pallbearers wearing personal protective gear helped lay him to rest.

DiFranco’s friends and coworkers grieved from across the street, where they stood outside of their vehicles to watch his final rites, ABC7 reported.

Photos shared by the Chicago Police Department showed scenes from the services, including the moment when masked officers presented folded flags to DiFranco’s weeping family members, who also wore face masks as they sat inside their vehicle.

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According to the Chicago Tribune, Beck urged caution for all his officers in a departmental memo.

“I implore you to take care of each other and your families,” Beck wrote. “This illness can be severe, and it does not discriminate. If you are feeling symptomatic, please stay home, quarantine and take care of yourselves.”

Like Hopkins in Colorado, Riverside County, California, sheriff’s Deputy Terrell Young contracted COVID-19 while working at the jail. Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco told the Los Angeles Times that Young had escorted an inmate, who later became symptomatic, to a hospital about a week before the deputy came down with a fever.

Eleven days later, the 15-year veteran and father of four was dead.

“There are a lot of different emotions in the department,” Bianco told the Times. “There’s a lot of uncertainty, there’s a lot of anxiety, there’s a lot of anger, there’s a lot of fear, and combine that with losing one of your friends.

“If you really want to honor his death, stay home.”