Puerto Rico Loses Valuable Officer to COVID19
On Friday, May 15, 2020, the Puerto Rico Police Department held a briefing to announce that one of their senior officers had died of complications from contracting the coronavirus. Sergeant José García-Vázquez, age 51, had served Puerto Rico as an officer with the Puerto Rico Police Department for over 31 years. It is believed that he contracted the virus during an outbreak that ravaged the district police station in Yauco, Puerto Rico.
Sergeant García Vázquez was promoted to Lieutenant II posthumously to honor his sacrifice in serving the community of Yauco and the surrounding area of Puerto Rico. He had recently been assigned to the Yauco Barracks. Early in April, eleven of the officers tested positive for the virus.
Vázquez was tested for the virus, but after three separate tests, all came back negative. It is assumed that it was an anomaly. As he fell ill, he was being treated in a San Germán hospital. As his condition worsened, he had to be intubated due to the coronavirus's impact on his body. He died shortly after.
Commander Iris Colón, director of the Community Relations Bureau, gave a brief public statement regarding the officer's passing. She reported that there would be a wake held for Vázquez, and after the wake, there will be private funeral arrangements. She explained to the public that no one would be able to enter the Avellanet funeral home, in Sabana Grande, to help slow the spread of the virus among the local community.
Keeping with local traditions, Officer Vázquez will be presented in the coffin at the public plaza in Sabana Grande. The wake will be located in front of the local funeral home. Other officers will be gathering with family for a brief posthumous promotion ceremony. This ceremony is a traditional act of mourning that is common in Puerto Rico when an officer passes.
Other police officers will transport the coffin to the entrance of the cemetery. Only family and close relatives will be permitted to attend additional burial ceremonies.
Officer Vázquez was nearing his 32nd anniversary. During his time with the department, he had held various positions, including Tactical Operations, Drugs and Narcotics, and Criminal Investigations Corps. Vázquez served at various local departments during his career. He achieved the rank of Sergeant in 2007.
Puerto Rico Police Department
In the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Police Bureau is the island's state police. The Puerto Rico Police Force is the second-largest force in North America, behind New York, which has the largest. For operational purposes, the department is organized into 13 different departments or Barracks.
Family, Friends, and Islanders Left Behind
Sergeant José García-Vázquez left behind his wife, Lt. Annette Silva, who also serves in the department as a Lieutenant Police Officer. She had been orphaned as a young girl; now, she is experiencing a tragic loss once again.
Vázquez also left behind fellow officers and the local community he tried to protect throughout his career. All came together, as best they could during the pandemic, to give him a sense of tradition long held on the island for officers who have died in the line of duty.