In Memory of Detention Deputy Tony Lee Bruce
On Monday, September 27, 2021, Florida residents learned that the state had lost another law enforcement officer to the deadly pandemic. Detention Deputy Tony Lee Bruce, age 55, died due to complications of contracting COVID19 while on the job. During the pandemic, COVID19 has become the number one killer of law enforcement officers across the country.
When the pandemic began, certain occupations were discovered to be at much higher risk for contracting the illness. Medical workers, EMTs, law enforcement, and other necessary workers were faced with continuing to do their job for the public benefit with the risk of contracting a possibly deadly virus. Officers who faced the pandemic straight on are considered heroes and are given full death benefits that fall under the line of duty deaths, as mandated by the federal government.
Deputy Bruce had been assigned to the Bay County Jail. Across the US, many detention officers have died as a result of the pandemic. It has been a real tragedy in many communities as these facilities were not designed to allow social distancing. Inmates are often housed in dormitories, and the virus spreads rapidly, creating a hot spot in the community. As inmates and officers are exposed to the virus, they bring it home to their families, spreading further in the local communities.
Detention Deputy Tony Bruce served with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office for more than two years as a detention deputy. Before working at Bay County, Bruce had served with the Corrections Corporation of America for twelve years.
Bay County Sheriff’s Office, Florida
Bruce worked with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. The BCSO is a fully accredited law enforcement agency currently headed by Sheriff Tommy Ford. Bay County is in the Panama City Metropolitan Area. The headquarters and county jail are located in Panama City, the county seat.
Jurisdiction for the BCSO covers over 1033 square miles. A specialty of the BCSO is its Marine Patrol Unit and Search and Rescue Team. The BCSO is responsible for protecting and patrolling more than 275 square miles of waterways and coastline. The department also provides patrols, civil service, jail management, court security, investigations, victims assistance, and more. Many departments encourage officers to volunteer throughout the community, and officers are answering the call in record numbers.
Detention Deputy Tony Lee Bruce leaves behind his wife, three children, and four stepchildren. His children and stepchildren will join the hundreds of thousands of American children who have lost a parent or primary caregiver to the illness. Communities across the country will need to consider how to help the many families and children thrive again. Honor guards performed ceremonies and demonstrated gratitude to Deputy Bruce for all of the community.
The Bay County Sheriff’s Office posted the announcement of its loss on Facebook. “It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing yesterday of Bay County Sheriff’s Office Detention Deputy Tony Bruce. Deputy Bruce served his community at the Bay County Jail, coming to us shortly after Hurricane Michael. He will be missed by those who worked with him and by his family. Please pray for the Bruce family during this time.”
Coworker Kiefer Johnson shared condolences for the family. “It was an honor to work beside Bruce both at the prison and the jail. He was the epitome of what it means to be a great CO and the embodiment of correctional excellence itself. Rest in peace, Bruce; you’ve earned it.”
Deputy Casey Whittingham shared her grief and loss on Facebook. “The loss of Mr. Bruce saddens us all. Praying for his family. My heart is very heavy, and still in a bit of disbelief. God gained a beautiful soul, truly kind and caring. Everyone who knew him was a better person and correctional officer for it. Fly high, brother, we will have to carry on, but please know your family of blood, green, and gray will carry you in our hearts and remember you as we walk this path of concrete and steel protecting others from that which they know nothing of or do not understand. Rest in peace.”