MIAMI (CBSMiami) – COVID-19 has claimed the lives of two South Florida law enforcement officers.

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony announced Saturday that deputy Shannon Bennett passed away Friday night at the hospital due to the coronavirus.

Bennett was 39-years-old and a 12-year veteran of the agency.

Saturday evening, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office reported the passing of Sergeant Jose Diaz Ayala.

Sgt. Jose Diaz Ayala (Courtesy: Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office)

Ayala, 38, was battling other underlying health issues before he contracted COVID-19, according to PBSO. He worked for the Corrections Division since 2006 and was promoted to Sergeant in 2016.

As for Bennett, Sheriff Tony said, “We lost a man in the line of duty and we’re probably going to lose another..

Watch the entire press conference in its entirety here:

 

Tony said Bennett was diagnosed on March 24 and died in the hospital on Friday night.

“This is a reminder, to not only this community, but us as first responders, that we’re on the front lines with this. This is a new enemy we can’t even see. We know it’s there and real and it’s impacting all of us,” said Tony.

The sheriff also said there are others within the agency who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Shannon Bennett

Shannon Bennett

Twenty other deputies remain in self-isolation.

The sheriff said Bennett was part of the LGBT community and had announced he was to marry in December.

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“This is not inconsistent with anything going on out there in the county,” Tony said. “My message is simple: we are the first agency in Broward County to lose a person in the line of duty and we can’t afford to break. We can shake. We can hurt. We can fear. But we can’t succumb to our fears.”

Bennett was one of the 21 BSO employees who had tested positive for COVID-19, Tony said. There are 20 other deputies who are currently in self isolation.

On Facebook, Bennett’s brother Darren, a pastor at Calvary Chapel in North Miami, shared his final text messages with his brother who was texting him from the hospital.

On March 24, Shannon Bennett texted his brother, “My life is almost over soon bro. Heaven last always. I feel like death.” He then told him he was headed to the emergency room. “I can’t breathe and can’t finish my sentences.”

Shannon Bennett responded in one of his last text messages to his brother: “I support my family. If I die just tell that story. That’s the legacy I wanna leave.”

Bennett was working as a school resource officer for Deerfield Beach Elementary School.

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