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Two South Florida Sheriff's Officers Die From COVID-19

Broward County Sheriff's deputy Shannon Bennett (left) who died Friday, and Palm Beach County sheriff's Sgt. Jose Diaz Ayala, who died Saturday.
Broward County Sheriff's Office, Palm Beach County Sherrif
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Two South Florida sheriff's officers, in Broward and Palm Beach counties, have died from the novel coronavirus.

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The Broward County Sheriff's Office said Saturday morning Deputy Shannon Bennett had died late Friday night after being diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus a week earlier. Bennett, 39, was a 12-year BSO veteran and a school resource officer at Deerfield Beach Elementary School.

Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Teri Barbera said Sergeant Jose Diaz Ayala died Saturday from the virus and other underlying health issues. Diaz, 38, was a 14-year veteran and worked in the corrections division.

Bennett was engaged to be married in December. Diaz is survived by three daughters.

Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said Saturday that Bennett became infected while on duty, and that his death is a reminder law enforcement is exposed to COVID-19 in its daily work. Tony pleaded with South Florida residents to follow social distancing guidelines to protect officers and themselves.

"For every time we have to answer a call because someone's not compliant [with the guidelines]," Tony said, "it puts our lives at risk."

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Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.