OAKLAND (CBS SF) — For the second time in a week, a member of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department has died while being treated for a COVID-19 infection, officials announced Saturday night.
Alameda County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said technician Valerie Leon passed away Friday evening while being treated for from complications due to COVID-19 at Kaiser Hospital in Modesto.
Leon, 61, joined the Sheriff Office in 1997 and worked a variety of assignments including at the Rene C Davidson Courthouse in Oakland. During the pandemic she was on assignment to the Coroner’s Bureau where she worked in administration.
“Once again it is with a heavy heart we must announce the passing of one of our own,” Sheriff Greg Ahern said in a press release. “Valerie was just a wonderful and loving person with a bright smile. She loved her job, community, family and friends. We are truly heartbroken at her passing.”
Leon is survived by her children — Brandon Perez and his wife Sarah Perez; Frank Perez and his wife Josephine Perez and son Michael Leon. She is also survived by her 13 grandchildren who she adored. Services for Valerie will be announced at a later time.
The department was already in mourning after 57-year-old Senior Deputy Oscar Rocha died just before 7 p.m. Thursday evening after being removed from life support at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek.
Earlier Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement regarding the COVID-19 related deaths of Rocha and Los Angeles Police Department Officer Valentin Martinez.
“The deaths of these two heroes is a very real and painful reminder of the risks these men and women face every single day protecting the people of California,” he said. “Jennifer and I extend our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Deputy Rocha and Officer Martinez as they grapple with these tremendous losses.”
Friends described Rocha as a man of integrity, honor and loyalty. His wife Maureen Ennor Rocha was at his side.
“I got to sit with him a little bit longer and then…when they took everything out,” remembered Rocha. “I went in and sat with him and I put his badge in his hand, so that he could die with is badge in is hand.”
It remains unclear at the moment where Rocha got the virus. The Alameda County Sheriff said he consider him to have died in the line of duty.
“He absolutely loved working here at the Alameda County Sheriff’s office. He loved this job,” said Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern.
Front line workers, including law enforcement, are especially at risk for the virus. Already 40 Alameda Sheriff’s Deputies have tested positive.
Kelly was an academy classmate with Rocha.
“I have seen a lot in my career, as you know, but COVID-19 is no joke,” said Kelly.
Hundreds of law enforcement officers from all over the Bay Area escorted Oscar and his family from John Muir Hospital across county lines back to Alameda County on Friday.
The flag-draped coffin received honors as they arrived at the county coroner’s office where it will remain until funeral services are organized.