Philadelphia lieutenant dies from COVID-19

Lt. James Walker, a three-decade veteran, is the city's first active duty officer to die as a result of the pandemic


Chris Palmer
The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia Police lieutenant has died from the coronavirus, the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office said Monday, the city’s first active duty officer to die as a result of the pandemic.

Lt. James Walker, 59, was pronounced dead Sunday at Abington Hospital, the coroner’s office said. A three-decade veteran of the department, Walker had been assigned to the traffic division.

Tributes to Walker began pouring in on social media late Sunday night, with friends describing his death as heartbreaking and surreal. Inspector Verdell Johnson wrote on Twitter Monday that Walker’s death was “another devastating blow to the Police Department.”

Walker’s death comes as law enforcement agencies across the country grapple with how to serve their communities while continuing to protect officers’ health.

The national Fraternal Order of Police said Sunday night that at least 21 officers across the country have died from the virus. And in cities such as Detroit and New York, hundreds of officers have called out sick or remain under quarantine.

Nearly 20% of the New York’s Police Department called out sick on Sunday, according to The Staten Island Advance, and more than 2,000 NYPD employees have tested positive for the virus,

Walker’s death also came weeks after Sgt. James O’Connor IV was fatally shot in Frankford while seeking to arrest a murder suspect. The city has been unable to hold traditional funeral services for O’Connor due to restrictions on large gatherings amid the pandemic.

Philadelphia officials have declined to say how many police officers have tested positive for the coronavirus, citing privacy concerns.

Late Sunday night, John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, confirmed the death of an active duty officer and said in a statement: “We should never forget the sacrifices of our officers and those on the front lines battling this pandemic and working tirelessly to keep our great city safe.”

Commissioner Danielle Outlaw last month announced a new policy instructing officers to delay arrests for most non-violent crimes and instead issue warrants for suspects to turn themselves in after the pandemic subsides. The decision, which was made in part to try to protect officers’ health, was praised by advocates, the police union, and District Attorney Larry Krasner.

COVID-19: Law enforcement deaths

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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