Third member of law enforcement family in Detroit-area dies of COVID-19. He was a dad of four.

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Detroit, Michigan – A longtime member of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office passed away on March 25th due to complications stemming from COVID-19.

After nearly 30 years of service to the sheriff’s office, Commander Donafay Collins had died after reportedly spending weeks in the hospital after a diagnosis of COVID-19 in conjunction with “underlying medical issues”.

The 63-year-old accomplished commander had worked within Division 2 inside the downtown jail, which is noted as being the facility housing some of the most notorious inmates.

Sheriff Benny Napoleon revealed the saddening news about the department’s loss:

“It was like someone put an anvil around my neck and just dropped it; and I’ve been feeling very heavy since all of this transpired because I know that this is not the last of it.”

Third member of law enforcement family in Detroit-area dies of COVID-19.  He was a dad of four.
Donafay Collins-Wayne County Sheriffs Department

To date, 18 individuals from the sheriff’s office have tested positive for COVID-19. It’s a worry for the department and Sheriff Napoleon, as they’re lacking in needed PPE to halt the spread internally:

“We don’t have any of that stuff, yet people still come to work. They still do their job. Nobody’s shying away from their responsibilities to the citizens of this community.”

Sheriff Napoleon described Commander Collins as not only a vital asset to the department, but also a mentor. Commander Collins had also recently obtained his master’s degree from the University of Michigan before he passed away.

According to the sheriff, Commander Collins was poised to continue moving up in the ranks within the sheriff’s office. Yet, now he’s trying to determine how a proper funeral service can be attended in light of the ever-present dangers of COVID-19 and large gatherings:

“It’s going to be a great loss for this agency — and for the whole community.”

The illness that robbed the department and community of Commander Collins is an unseen enemy, according to Sheriff Napoleon. He said it’s not like trying to track down a suspected burglar or other criminal.

Up until 2019, Commander Collins also used his spare time away from the sheriff’s office to moonlight as a radio DJ on Mix 92.3 FM. The sheriff’s office noted that endeavor of his on his online bio:

“When he’s off-duty he’s displaying his vocal abilities as an emcee for various events, including the hugely popular Friday night “Back Jam Show” broadcast live from Lucky’s Restaurant in Southfield.”

The fallen commander is survived by his four children and his wife. We at Law Enforcement Today share our utmost condolences for his family and loved ones.

Detroit has been getting hit particularly hard with regard to COVID-19 affecting the law enforcement community. 

In a period of just two days, the Detroit Police Department has lost two of their own.

After the news of one of their 911 dispatchers having passed earlier this week due to COVID-19, Captain Jonathan “Recon” Parnell has also passed away from the same.

A colleague of the fallen officer stated:

“He was a great guy, very tactical, very smart, he was a street cop, a real street cop, very polite, very humble.”

Captain Parnell was noted as having headed the major crimes unit within the department.

Prior to being in major crimes, he also spent time in the homicide, sex crimes, narcotics, and child abuse units within the DPD.

A spokesman for the department, Dan Donakowski, was at first tight-lipped on the death and would not disclose the name of the department member, although he did admit that on March 25th a ranking officer had passed away due to COVID-19. 

As of March 24th, the city of Detroit has 11 confirmed deaths due to COVID-19 with approximately 574 confirmed cases.

As mentioned, this marks the second loss for the DPD in just a two-day period. 

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Just the day prior to learning of Captain Parnell’s passing, Law Enforcement Today had learned that a member of the Detroit Police Department has passed away due to COVID-19, according to reports.

One local news crew in Detroit was able to confirm that the recently deceased was referred to as a civilian dispatcher within the department. This was further confirmed after the DPD held a press conference on March 24th. 

The unnamed individual was 38 years old at the time of their passing, from what a spokesperson for the department has revealed so far.

Chief James Craig from the DPD informed the public that a news conference was to be held at 11:00 a.m. on March 24th to reveal additional insight into the department’s tragic loss.

The press briefing was held at the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters. During the press conference, there was no additional insight revealed with regard to the identity of the 911 dispatcher. 

To date, approximately 282 officers from the DPD have self-quarantined due to the revelation of nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 that have affected the department.

That number accounts for roughly 10% of the department’s workforce of 2,200 officers.

When news of the 911 operator’s passing broke, Mayor Mike Duggan had informed the public that of those currently quarantined, there are an expected 150 officers that will return to work by March 30th.


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