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Boston police mourn ‘hero’ officer who died from coronavirus

Jose Fontanez is first Boston emergency responder to die of COVID-19

Boston Police Officer Jose V. Fontanez
Boston Police Officer Jose V. Fontanez
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Boston’s “family of blue” lost one of its own to coronavirus Tuesday — with the city’s first emergency responder death from COVID-19 prompting grief yet grim resolve among police to continue fighting on the front lines of the frightening pandemic.

Boston Police Officer Jose V. Fontanez

Officer Jose Fontanez, 53, was a 29-year veteran of the Boston Police Department. He began his career in January 1991 and had served in District E-13 in Jamaica Plain since 1996. He was a decorated officer who had received several commissioner’s commendations.

“We lost a hero today to this virus,” Mayor Martin Walsh said in a press conference at City Hall Plaza. “He stood in harm’s way to protect us. He made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Fontanez was a “highly regarded” officer known for his devotion to his wife, four children, grandchild and siblings, according to Walsh and Boston Police Commissioner William Gross, who said they spoke to Fontanez’s wife and brother Tuesday to express their condolences.

“This is a devastating blow to a family,” Walsh said. “This is also a very devastating blow to our city, for the Boston Police Department and the entire public safety family.”

Fontanez died at Boston Medical Center due to complications from the dangerous disease.

“This is a great man,” Gross said. “Loved his city. Of course loved his family and loved his family of blue and served them well.”

Gross said Fontanez “fought a valiant and courageous fight against COVID-19” and thanked the doctors and nurses who treated him. He called the officer a “proud warrior” to the end.

“This one hit us pretty tough,” Gross added. “We can all do more to help prevent the spread of this virus.”

Gross said 67 Boston police officers have tested positive for the highly contagious virus, 53 of whom remain off-duty. Those who have returned to the front lines “have done so willingly to continue to help out the citizens of Boston,” he said.

“It’s pretty tough to be on the first line,” Gross added. “You know you’re going into the line of fire. But that’s our job.”

Gross said his officers have adequate supplies of personal protective equipment. And he said they would continue to crack down on those still committing crimes amid the public health crisis.

“There’s only 1 or 2% that aren’t listening, and they will be locked up,” Gross said. “You will not get a COVID-19 break.”

Gov. Charlie Baker said his “heart goes out” to Fontanez’s family and comrades, citing the risks first responders are taking each day during the pandemic.

Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins called officers “selfless” adding “we will not forget Officer Fontanez.’’

Chelsea police Chief Brian Kyes, president of the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs, called Fontanez’s death “incredibly heartbreaking.”

Kyes tracks coronavirus cases among major city cops across the state. He said there were currently about 96 officers, including 11 within the Massachusetts State Police, who had tested positive for COVID-19. Statewide, 957 people have died from the virus and 28,163 have tested positive.

Walsh implored Bostonians to honor Fontanez’s memory by staying home and wearing face coverings if they have to go out as the state enters its coronavirus surge period.