In 2020, 62% of police deaths were caused by COVID: One officer's story

NEW YORK — James Anthony "Tony" Sisk was a lifelong law enforcement officer.

He had reached the rank of captain with the Culpeper County, Virginia, Sheriff's Department.

Before that, he had worked in several different local departments starting in 1994, according to a department Facebook post

Sisk was a native of the area, graduating from Culpeper High School and a lifelong friend of current Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins, who Sisk went to work for after Jenkins was elected sheriff.

The father of two was respected by his co-workers, and in 2019 he was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the Culpeper Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Task Force for his work in support of crime victims.

On Oct. 1, Sisk died of COVID-19 after being admitted to the hospital, the Facebook post said.

He was 50 years old.

"Tony’s death leaves a hole in our hearts and in our community that cannot be filled," Sheriff Jenkins said. "His ready smile and warm embrace were well known to all. Knowing that Tony is resting with God helps a little to ease the tremendous pain of losing this outstanding human being. Rest In Peace, brother."

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of almost 500 law enforcement officers, between 2020 and 2021, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a database that tracks line of duty officer deaths.

That represents 62% of all law enforcement line of duty deaths in 2020 alone, according to the statistics.

"It's taken a definite toll," Fayette County, Ohio, Sheriff Vernon P. Stanforth told ABC News. "Anytime there's a line of duty death there, it impacts the entire agency and the entire law enforcement community."

Standforth is president of the National Sheriffs' Association.

Those fallen officers will be honored by Attorney General Merrick Garland during a candlelight vigil on Thursday night, according to the National Law Enforcement Museum.

Patrick Yoes, president of the National Fraternal Order of Police, one of the biggest police unions in the country called COVID-19 not only a public health crisis, but a public safety crisis.

"The National Fraternal Order of Police knew at the beginning of the pandemic that law enforcement officers on the front lines combating this pandemic would be increasingly vulnerable to contracting the virus," Yoes said. "As we had feared, the virus has claimed the lives of many, and now includes a growing number of law enforcement officers."

It is not known if Sisk ever got vaccinated.

The Fraternal Order of Police maintains that getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is a personal decision, as does Sheriff Standforth.

He said he believes the vaccine will become like wearing a bulletproof vest. At first, Standforth said, officers were apprehensive about wearing a vest, but as time went on, more and more started wearing them.

"We will eventually, just like the past, we will eventually get to the place, where we will say, OK, I can't make the argument any longer I've got it, I'm going to take the vaccine to protect myself and my family," the sheriff said. "I think that's just cyclical and it'll happen in due time."

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