Family of Denver Deputy Herrera supports effort to ensure COVID-19 deaths are classified as ‘line of duty’

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DENVER (KDVR) — There’s an effort at the Colorado legislature to require law enforcement agencies to classify officer and deputy COVID-19 deaths as “line of duty” deaths.

That classification carries benefits for surviving family members.

Within 10 days, two Denver Sheriff’s deputies died from COVID-19. The family of Deputy James Herrera is asking for a line-of-duty death classification. The deputy’s sons said they don’t know if their dad was vaccinated against coronavirus.

“He took a lot of pride working for the department,” Herrera’s son, Andrew Herrera, said.

The elder Herrera put in long hours at Denver’s Downtown Detention Center, his family said.

“They’re working these huge amount of hours in a day, like 12-hour shifts … 16-hour shifts,” son Stephen Herrera explained.

Andrew and Stephen said while they aren’t sure if their dad was vaccinated, they feel confident he contracted the virus at work.

“They have so many people that come through their work environment,” Andrew said. “They have no way of defending themselves from something like that.”

Herrera died from COVID-19 on May 16. His colleague, fellow Deputy Daniel “Duke” Trujillo, died from COVID-19 on Wednesday.

“These things are happening, because certain measures aren’t being taken,” Andrew said.

A Herrera family spokesperson and former State Rep. Debbie Stafford said a late bill request has been submitted by a member of the Colorado House of Representatives. That request would force lawmakers to consider a bill ensuring line-of-duty death honors and benefits when an officer or deputy dies from COVID-19.

It’s unclear if vaccination status would play a role.

“It’s been quiet on [the City and County of Denver’s] end for line-of duty-death,” Andrew said. “[We] have not heard much support.”

Andrew and Stephen said their dad took precautions while working.

“He sanitized … he wore his mask,” Andrew said.

FOX31 asked Mayor Hancock spokeswoman Theresa Marchetta if Herrera’s death will be classified as “line of duty.” Marchetta said Herrera’s death “has not been determined.”

The primary decision to classify a death as in “line of duty” is made by the city’s risk management department and determines whether an employee’s death could be claimed under the Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act, Marchetta said.

Other benefits, like casket watch and honor guard, are determined by the Sheriff, and the deputy’s life insurance provider would determine whether the death is deemed “accidental death or dismemberment,” she added.

The late bill request is currently under consideration by Colorado House leadership. The legislative session is scheduled to end on June 12.

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