POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Shortly after family members, friends and loved ones said their final farewells Monday to a Polk County deputy who died of COVID-19, several lined up to get vaccinated against the virus.
Memorial services were held at the Victory Church in Lakeland, Florida, for 32-year-old Deputy Sheriff Christopher Broadhead. The Polk County deputy and father of five died Aug. 23 after a weeks-long battle with COVID-19.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office hosted a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the church after the services at the request of Broadhead’s family.
According to county health officials, a total of 94 people were vaccinated after the funeral. Seven people were vaccinated at the church and 87 got the vaccine at the sheriff’s office.
Polk County Deputy Sheriff Dustin Pantalone and his fiancée were among those vaccinated at the church.
“We have been on the fence regarding it. With Chris’ death, it was definitely an eye-opener for us,” Pantalone said. “Chris and I were close and got hired together, went through the academy together. Just happy that our paths crossed just a few weeks ago, and it was like old times when we worked together during patrol.”
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd has not disclosed whether or not Broadhead was vaccinated. However, during the memorial service on Monday, a friend of Broadhead noted that multiple friends and family have gotten the vaccine since his death.
Sheriff Judd also took time to address the vaccine during his speech at the memorial.
“Chris may have left us, but he also left us with a legacy about his broad life. His colleagues and friends wanted to be more like him. Chris set the examples for others to follow,” Judd said. “It is my prayer that we never forget the man who was selfless and genuinely and intelligent. After all, he had to be — he was a Florida Gator. And you know, I think if Chris were here with us today, he’d look around the room and say, ‘Get the vaccine.'”
Judd has publicly urged the community to get their vaccines several times since Broadhead’s death.
“This virus is real and it’s deadly, and Christopher is the poster child for how deadly it is. He was only 32,” Judd said the day after Broadhead’s death.
The sheriff last week said 50 of his 2,000 employees were infected with COVID-19, with as many as five in the hospital and one civilian employee on a ventilator.