DENVER (KDVR) — The COVID death of Denver Sheriff’s deputy Daniel “Duke” Trujillo on Wednesday night came just 10 days after another deputy, James Herrera, succumbed to the disease.
Trujillo, 33, and Herrera, 51, both worked in the intake section of the downtown detention center, according to Michael Britton, past president of the Fraternal Order of Police/Lodge 27, the union that represents many of the deputies in the department.
“It’s scary right now after seeing two of my friends die within 10 days of each other,” Britton said. He wonders whether a COVID variant may have infected the downtown detention center.
According to a COVID dashboard maintained by the City of Denver, 11 inmates are currently positive for COVID at the downtown jail.
The Sheriff’s Department told FOX31 it doesn’t track how many deputies have become infected or how many have chosen to get vaccinated.
But Britton said according to the union’s count, 107 deputies have contracted COVID since the start of the pandemic, and three deputies are currently or were recently hospitalized due to COVID. The Sheriff’s Department said for privacy reasons, it cannot confirm if any other deputies are or were recently hospitalized.
Britton said he saw Trujillo at a union meeting last Thursday, and he seemed fine.
“He was wearing his mask, and I talked to him some. That’s why I was in shock,” to learn of his death, Britton said.
Britton said he learned Trujillo had only been hospitalized since Sunday, and he passed away just three days later.
He doesn’t know if Trujillo chose to be vaccinated, but social media posts reviewed by the Problem Solvers strongly suggest that Trujillo probably was not vaccinated.
On Thursday morning, FOX31 spoke to the adult sons of Herrera, the other deputy who died from COVID. Both said they never asked their father if he had chosen to get vaccinated, so they don’t know if he had been vaccinated when he had died.
While Britton said the choice to get vaccinated is a personal decision, he hopes the death of two deputies might encourage other deputies to get vaccinated.
“Coming from a leadership standpoint, my personal opinion is everyone is to get vaccinated,” said Britton, who said he is vaccinated.
Denver Sheriff Elias Diggins tweeted a photo of himself getting vaccinated on Jan. 27, soon after deputies and other first responders first became eligible for the vaccine. But Britton complained the department hasn’t done more to encourage vaccines among its staff.
“We used to be able to get the flu shot every year right in our medical unit. Why weren’t vaccinations given out specifically right inside the jail to make it easier (for employees)?” he said.
On Thursday afternoon, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Department informed FOX31 the sheriff was now organizing vaccination clinics with the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment to be held for employees at the Downtown Detention Center and Denver County Jail.
The clinics are expected to be up and running in the next week or two.