An “out and proud gay law enforcement deputy” from Florida who died of complications from coronavirus is being remembered by as a “protector of the LGBT+ community”.
Deputy sheriff Shannon Bennett was 39 when died on April 3, just a week after testing positive for COVID-19.
He had left work on March 23 feeling unwell, and went to the hospital the following day where he was tested for coronavirus.
Bennett was a proudly out gay man who was due to marry his fiancé, Jonathan Frey, later this year. He is believed to be the first such line-of-duty death from COVID-19 in Florida.
Tributes pour in for Florida police officer who died of coronavirus.
Florida’s Broward Sheriff’s Office, where Bennett worked for more than a decade, led tributes to the late deputy.
“Deputy Shannon Bennett was a 12 year veteran of the Broward Sheriff’s Office; an out and proud gay law enforcement deputy; a school resource officer who protected and mentored the young students at Deerfield Beach Elementary; a man in love whose wedding was to be held later this year,” colleagues wrote in a Facebook post.
“We love and will miss you, Deputy Bennett. Thank you for your bravery, your kind heart, and your service. Rest In Peace.”
Bennett’s friend Tim Martin told the South Florida Sun Sentinel how the deputy enjoyed taking part in local Pride celebrations.
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“During the Stonewall Pride fest in Wilton Manors, he never participated in the drinking aspect, the fun part of it,” he said.
“He always wanted to be in uniform, on the street, protecting his community. And he was very proud of that fact, that that’s what he did on most weekends.
Whenever they closed down Wilton Drive, he was there, in uniform, protecting us.
After the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, Bennett took to parking his patrol car outside bars and clubs in the gay area of Wilton Manors to show that they were protected.
“Shannon Bennett was the kind of guy who would put his family first, his friends second, and himself last,” Martin told local media.
A second police officer from Broward Sheriff’s Office, Jose Diaz Ayala, subsequently also died of complications from the disease.