x
Breaking News
More () »

'I can't express how terribly they're going to be missed' | Austin interim police chief speaks after two officers die of COVID-19

Two Austin Police Department officers died of COVID-19 this week, the first coronavirus-related deaths in the department.

AUSTIN, Texas — After two Austin Police Department officers died of COVID-19 this week two days in a row, Interim Chief Joseph Chacon said he’s still trying to process the “incredibly tragic moment.”

“Both of these officers served honorably with the police department, and I can’t express how terribly they’re going to be missed,” Chacon said.

Senior Patrol Officer Randolph Boyd died of the coronavirus on Wednesday and Sgt. Steve Urias on Thursday. Boyd was the first APD officer to die of COVID-19.

“While many have had the blessing to be able to work from home, our employees continue to come into the workplace and go out in our community answering emergency calls for service and placing themselves in harm’s way for the benefit of our citizens,” Chacon said. “I commend our two fallen officers for their selfless service and for showing up every single day, despite the obvious danger that we’re all in.”

At a press conference Friday, Chacon said he could not confirm whether or not the two officers were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. He said vaccines are highly encouraged, but not required, and APD does not track vaccination status.

Approximately 40 officers were positive for COVID-19 on Friday, Aug. 27.

Chacon estimates that 50-60% of APD’s employees are vaccinated. He said considering a vaccine or mask mandate needs to happen at the City level.

“That’s really, I think, a consideration that would have to happen at the City management level for all City employees, obviously not just the police department,” Chacon said. “And to my knowledge, those discussions are not being had right now.”

The two coronavirus deaths come after another officer, Andy Traylor, died after a car crash while on duty in July.

In May, Texas lawmakers passed a bill allowing officers’ families to have access to line-of-duty death benefits if they die of COVID-19. This makes it presumptive that officers contracted the virus on the job.

Chacon said the department is taking safety precautions against COVID-19, including following the City’s guidance on masks, encouraging employees to social distance when possible, working outside and trying to put officers in vehicles by themselves.

Across the U.S., more officers have died of COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021 than any other cause, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

PEOPLE ARE ALSO READING: 

LIST: Central Texas school closures due to COVID-19

Key deadline for child tax credit recipients comes Monday

Coronavirus updates in Central Texas: Friday school and cases stat tracker

Paid Advertisement