Hernando County Sheriff’s Office mourns deputy dead of COVID-19-CBS Tampa

HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) -Many local police departments are mourning the deaths of several officers in the Tampa Bay area from COVID-19. The most recent deputy who passed was part of the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office. His name is Tommy Breedlove and he was only 54 years old.

According to the Fraternal Police Order, 622 officers have died from COVID-19 across the country, 56 of whom were right here in Florida. Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis says even though a number like that is heartbreaking, police officers do not get a break and must continue to work to help the community.

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“It weighs. When it hits in your office, it hits very close to home, especially someone who has been here for many years,” says Sheriff Nienhuis.

For the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, 54-year-old Tommy Breedlove was more than just an officer.

“He was also a family man. He has seven children. He went to a church here in Hernando County and helped teach Sunday school, ”said Sheriff Nienhuis.

Breedlove died of COVID-19 Saturday night.

“It was a tough weekend. I have to admit, I felt pretty dark at the weekend because he was a good man and it’s going to be hard to fill the shoes, ”said Sheriff Nienhuis.

Two officers, one with St. Petersburg Police and another with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office died of COVID-19 within the last week.

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“There are many long faces, but unfortunately we always have to deal with very difficult issues, and we must not shut down. The entire agency cannot take funeral leave, ”said Sheriff Nienhuis.

Sheriff Nienhuis says that along with psychologists and pastors available to the department, officers are also willing to help each other while mourning.

“We deal with the worst of the worst, so we’re very quick to jump in to help someone, especially in times like this,” Sheriff Nienhuis said.

USF Psychiatry associate professor Ryan Wagoner says watching officers like Breedlove lose their lives to COVID-19 is difficult for officers and members of the community.

“Sad for the officers themselves. The police and service staff and stuff are there to help us. Suddenly, when you see them drop from COVID-19, it will obviously have an emotional impact, ”Wagoner said.

He says he knows officers may need to consider seeing a therapist if they start showing signs of depression or anxiety. But a very important part of grief is talking to those closest to you.

“To keep in close contact with family and friends, with colleagues, to be able to talk about things and process things,” Wagoner said.

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Many police departments throughout the area are urging everyone, including law enforcement, to be vaccinated. According to the Fraternal Order of Police, Texas has the highest number of officers killed by COVID-19 at 2 p.m. Florida comes right behind it and has a connection to California at 56.

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