JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Being a law enforcement officer has always been a dangerous job, but now there’s a new deadly threat out there.

“It’s very frightening because you know we, usually you know, officers are tragically killed in a shooting, motor vehicle accident. Sometimes you have officers who even have heart attacks on the job and they die. But here we are, those are not the leading causes of death. It’s COVID-19,” said Tyree Jones, who is running for Hinds County sheriff.

Since May 2020, at least eight Mississippi law enforcement officers have lost their lives to coronavirus. The most recent was Jackson Police Sgt. Bryan Pippin. Police Chief James Davis said Pippen was “like a brother to him.”

“The police department has a heavy heart right now. We have been hit with this coronavirus. At one point, we had almost 12 individuals out, a couple of them hospitalized. But Bryan is the one that never left the hospital,” said James.

The police chief said the virus can be a threat everytime they answer a call.

“But we need the prayers because we are on the front lines. We have to answer the calls. We have to see communities broken. You’ve got the community of Jackson losing family members from this virus, and now it has really hit home,” stated Davis.

Jones, who is a 22-year law enforcement veteran, agreed.

“We can’t tell the public or the citizens, ‘We are not responding to your call for help.’ We are obligated and that’s our public service that we are sworn to do.  So when the public calls and needs assistance, the police has to respond. But we have to try and take all the measurements before us to try and keep from contracting COVID,” said Jones.

Jones’ boss and longtime friend, Sheriff Lee Vance, urged for people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. After contracting COVID-19 during an outbreak at the Hinds County Detention Center, Sheriff Vance spoke to 12 News via telephone as he quarantined.

“Like I said, it’s kind of like a bad cold or the flu. I haven’t experienced any shortness of breath or any severe symptoms so far. So I believe if I hadn’t taken the vaccine, it’s probably helping me right now. I’m very adamant that people need to get vaccinated,” Vance stated at the time.

He died a few days after saying these words, leaving the community in shock.

Jones said he’s made it a mission that the sheriff’s death and that of Sgt. Pippen will not be in vain.

“We mourn their deaths, but again, we have to try and promote the message to other law enforcement personnel,” said Jones. “We depend on the public, listen to science, listen to what science is telling us. If you pay attention to science and the message gets out, maybe law enforcement personnel will get vaccinated, and they will pay closer attention to what their bodies are saying as well.”

Eight Mississippi law enforcement members have died in the line of duty from the virus.

  • Lincoln County Corrections Officer Marshall Lee “Bem” London, Jr. – May 2020
  • Edwards Police Department Sgt. Kelvin Dewayne Mixon – July 2020
  • Pike County Captain Glenn Allen Green – July 2020
  • Brookhaven Police Department Lt. Marzell Jerome Brooks – November 2020
  • Hinds County Sheriff Lee Don Vance – July 2021
  • Yalobusha County Sheriff Lee Fulco – August 2021
  • George County Deputy Bobby Daffin – August 2021
  • Jackson Police Department Sgt. Bryan Pippin – September 2021