Second Denver sheriff's deputy dies from COVID-19 in less than 2 weeks

Deputy Daniel "Duke" Trujillo worked in intake at the city's Downtown Detention Center


By Jake Shapiro and Noelle Phillips
The Denver Post
        
DENVER — A second Denver Sheriff Department deputy working at the city's Downtown Detention Center died due to COVID-19 complications, less than two weeks after the first, the agency announced.

Deputy Daniel "Duke" Trujillo, a 33-year-old former Marine, died Wednesday night with his family by his side, the sheriff's department said in a news release.

Deputy James Herrera, 51, died of COVID-19 on May 16.

Trujillo and Herrera worked at the Downtown Detention Center, which has had an active COVID-19 outbreak since April 2020. The Denver Sheriff Department website reported 11 active cases at the detention center as of Thursday.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data shows 1,261 COVID-19 cases at the detention center, with 107 of them among staff members, since April 2020. The health agency has not connected any deaths to the detention center outbreak.

Sheriff's deputies, like other first responders in Colorado, became eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations in January and were among those allowed to have vaccines as the first wave of doses were available in the state, Daria Serna, a sheriff's department spokeswoman said.

However, the shots were not mandatory, and the department does not track how many deputies have been vaccinated because of privacy concerns, Serna said.

"Vaccinations were a choice," she said.

Vaccinations also are offered to people when they are booked into the downtown jail, she said. But it is up to individuals to decide whether to accept a Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shot, she said.

Trujillo worked in intake, which is where people are processed after police take them into custody and bring them to the jail. Everyone brought to the jail is tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, Serna said. Masks are mandatory for all employees and inmates at both jails.

Trujillo was opposed to the vaccine, according to public posts on his Facebook page. He posted multiple images and comments about mask-wearing and the vaccine, including one with his picture framed by the words, "I don't care if you've had your vaccine."

On April 26 he reposted a TikTok video of a man, who identified himself as a former Marine, who said people should not take a COVID-19 vaccination because the long-term side effects were unknown. Trujillo commented, "I'll get it later on after y'all start growing apendages (sic) out of y'all's foreheads."

Sarna said she was not aware of Trujillo's social media posts but said, "We all have the right to freedom of speech and what we choose."

The Denver Sheriff Department has ongoing education for its employees on how to protect themselves from the virus and how to prevent its spread. The department has hosted meetings for employees at which a Denver Health doctor talked about the vaccines that are available and answered questions, Serna said.

Those meetings were recorded and posted on an internal website so employees could watch them.

In the wake of the two recent deaths, the sheriff's department is organizing on-site employee vaccination clinics at the city's two jails. But there's only so much the sheriff and his command staff can do, she said.

The department does not mandate staff be vaccinated.

"As an organization, that's the best we can do and what we do," Serna said. "Everything else is up to an individual."
     
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