DETROIT — Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon has died after contracting COVID-19. He was 65 years old.
Napoleon was admitted to the hospital on November 21, and died several weeks after being placed on a ventilator, michiganradio.org reported.
The lawman was appointed sheriff in 2009, and he was elected to the position in 2012, and reelected every four years since then.
Napoleon spent decades in Motor City law enforcement. His police chief brother overcame COVID-19 earlier this year.
The Wayne County sheriff died Thursday night at Henry Ford Hospital, according to reports.
“Benny had so much life yet to live; our community has once again lost someone larger than life to this vicious pandemic,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel tweeted late Thursday night. “My heart goes out to Benny’s family. It was an honor and a privilege to call him my sheriff.”
Napoleon’s career in public service began in the Detroit Police Department in the 1970s. He later served as its chief before becoming sheriff.
In 2013, he ran for Detroit mayor, losing to Mayor Mike Duggan, who told the Detroit Free Press Friday that the career law enforcement officer had been courageous.
“I cannot think of a leader in this town who has been more loved and admired than Benny,” he told the news organization. “He was born in the city…and loved Detroit as much as anyone I’ve ever known.”
The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office has lost three deputies and a commander to COVID-19 before Napoleon lost his battle.
Napoleon’s brother, Hilton, the police chief in nearby Highland Park, spent 71 days in a hospital with the coronavirus, according to WJBK. In a sad twist of fate, four of the family’s five siblings have contracted the illness.
“He did everything that he possibly could not to catch this,” Hilton Napoleon told the station. “But by him being a public servant … you can try to protect yourself as best as you can, but this virus is very contagious and very deadly. We are just asking for prayers for our family that we can get through this.”
Napoleon, the son of a minister, spent some of his time off coaching Little League baseball, PAL basketball and served on the boards of other youth-oriented programs to keep kids out of crime, Fox reported.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she was “heartbroken,” calling Napoleon a “dear friend.”
“Sheriff Napoleon’s love for the people he served was returned many times over. His quick laugh, eager partnership, and candid counsel is what I will miss most,” she tweeted.