'Our entire department is mourning': Aurora police sergeant dies of COVID-19
An Aurora police sergeant has died from complications of COVID-19, the department's second virus-related death in just more than a week.
Sgt. Ken Thurman contracted COVID-19 while serving the Aurora community, police said in a statement. Thurman, 51, died Wednesday.
The day before, police attended the funeral for officer Brian Shields, who died from COVID-19 complications on Jan. 11. He also was 51.
"This has been an extremely difficult few weeks for the men and women of the Aurora Police Department," Aurora Police Chief Keith Cross said in the statement. "Our entire department is mourning; please keep our APD family in your thoughts and prayers."
Thurman was sworn in as an Aurora police officer on May 30, 2000.
About three years later, he joined the department's community-oriented policing unit. After he was promoted to sergeant in 2008, Thurman held various roles as a patrol supervisor, jail supervisor and, most recently, patrol support sergeant.
He also took a leading role in a program to roll out police-worn body cameras, fleet cameras and a digital evidence unit.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
Under city policy, Aurora police officers are required to either provide proof of vaccination or undergo weekly testing to protect against the spread of COVID-19, department spokesman Paris Lewbel said.
When asked if Thurman and Shields were fully vaccinated, Lewbel said the city does not release any information from employee medical files, for privacy reasons.
The department is the second-largest municipal police force in the state, with 310 sworn officers.
Earlier this week, police paid tribute to Shields at his funeral in an Oswego church. He graduated from the University of Illinois with a master's degree in journalism. He worked as a reporter for the Times of Northwest Indiana, Kane County Chronicle and the Aurora Beacon-News before becoming a police officer in 2005.
Shields later earned a second master's degree in biblical studies from Moody Theological Seminary.
"He loved making connections and helping the community," his obituary read. "He always took time to listen, gave solid advice and brought his own style to the job."
COVID-19 was the leading cause of deaths among U.S. law enforcement in 2021, killing at least 301 officers, according to a preliminary report from the National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum.
"Law enforcement officers nationwide continue to be exposed to the COVID-19 virus in the course of their daily assignments," the report stated. "Therefore, the number of line-of-duty deaths is sadly ever-increasing."
In DuPage and Kane counties, hospitals were reporting 38 out of 323 staffed ICU beds were open as of Wednesday, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Hospitals in that region were treating 787 COVID-19 patients.