A Boston police officer has died after contracting the coronavirus, the department said Tuesday, calling the news "devastating."
Officer Jose Fontanez was a decorated, nearly 30-year veteran of the department. It's the first death related to the coronavirus outbreak announced by the department.
"We lost a hero today to this virus," Mayor Marty Walsh said, adding his death is a reminder of the courage all first responders and front-line workers are showing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Boston police announced Fontanez's death in a statement:
It is with deep regret that the Boston Police Department announces the passing of active duty Boston Police Officer Jose V. Fontanez due to complications from COVID-19. Officer Fontanez was a 29-year veteran of the BPD who was assigned to District E-13 (Jamaica Plain). Officer Fontanez received numerous commendations for his dedicated service during his 29-year career and was highly regarded by those he worked with, his supervisors and all who knew him. Jose will be greatly missed by his friends and colleagues here at the BPD as we all send our heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones during this tremendously sad and difficult time.
Walsh and police Commissioner William Gross identified him, saying they had spoken with Fontanez's family -- he had four children and a grandchild, to whom his fellow officers said he was devoted, Walsh said.
Fontanez started with the force in 1991 and spent most of his career working in Jamaica Plain. Gross noted that he had received several commendations.
"He fought a valiant and courageous fight against COVID-19," Gross said.
Sixty-seven Boston police officers have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to Gross, and 14 have returned to duty.
The pair of city leaders urged residents to stay home and continue social distancing in honor of Fontanez and everyone else working to keep Boston running during the coronavirus outbreak.
Gov. Charlie Baker spoke about the officer's death during a news conference on Cape Cod Tuesday.
"My heart, and I think everybody's heart, goes out to him," Baker said, as well as others in uniform.
He said police officers' jobs are made much more complicated by the virus, as do those of all "essential workers" on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, from police officers and bus drivers to supermarket and social workers.
"They do it because it's just their job but they also do it because they chose this to be the way they define purpose for themselves," Baker said.