Fla. deputy dies of COVID-19
Deputy Shannon Bennett, a 12-year veteran, served as a school resource officer
BROWARD, Fla. —The Broward Sheriff’s Office lost one of its veteran deputies to the coronavirus, the department announced Saturday morning.
Deputy Shannon Bennett, who served for 12 years, died Friday night of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, said Sheriff Gregory Tony.
Bennett was 39 and a member of the LGBTQ community and had announced he was to marry in December. He contracted the virus while “in the line of duty,” Tony said, and had been in the care of a local hospital since March 27. He first reported he was sick four days earlier.
Bennett seemed to be rallying but took a turn for the worse Friday night, Tony said at the news conference.
“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,” Tony said at a Saturday morning news conference at BSO’s public safety building.
“We lost a man in the line of duty, and we’re probably going to lose another. But we’re going to keep fighting this battle and if you support us then take heed of this virus,” Tony said, noting that officers and staffers have been following protocols to protect themselves with personal protection equipment. But he added that “the virus infecting our planet” is an ongoing and evolving challenge.
“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.
“Ours is a unique profession,” Tony continued. “It impacts our performance but at the very end of that he died saving people. This can happen to any of us at any time. When we put on this uniform and walk into a mall and are now involved in a shooting these are the severe and serious consequences of our job. But this can be six feet away from me at this time and you never see it coming.”
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.
Corrections officers in South Florida’s jails also worry that they, as well as the prison population, could see the contagious virus spread throughout the cramped buildings as protective equipment runs scarce.
“Two officers told us, ‘Don’t believe what they’re telling ya’ll. The coronavirus is in here. Be safe. Wash your hands,’” James Griffith, 19, who is awaiting trial for an armed robbery charge while on house arrest, told the Miami Herald. He was released Friday from the MetroWest Detention Center in Miami-Dade. “It’s crazy in there right now.”
‘The legacy I wanna leave’
Darren Bennett, the deputy’s brother, posted on Facebook early Saturday morning.
“Bro, I’m empty and I feel like I can’t breathe ... you were my twin. My ride or die! I can’t even function right now! I love you sooo much man! I can’t believe I’m even posting this! Rest well Shannon S Bennett! You fought a damn good fight and your legacy WILL LIVE ON! I got it from here bro. Deputy S Bennett take a bow.”
Bennett was working as a school resource officer for Deerfield Beach Elementary School.
His survivors include his brother and his mother, Barbara.
On Facebook, Darren Bennett, a pastor at Calvary Chapel in North Miami, shared his final text messages with his brother who was texting him from the hospital.
The siblings shared fond remembrances of the time Shannon Bennett went to support his brother at a Christmas wrestling tournament when Darren was on the Cardinal Gibbons High School team.
“Remember I walked in with my crew like I was a rapper and started chanting supe, supe, supe, hey buddy buddy, hey buddy buddy,” Shannon Bennett texted.
“The rest of the team held on to that and used it the rest of the season,” Darren responded.
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 to marry his partner on Dec. 11, 2020, according to a February 24 post on his Facebook page.
Miami-Dade Police Department also offered condolences to the family and fellow BSO officers on Twitter.