Flagler County Sheriff’s Correction Deputy Paul Luciano was 60. Volusia County Circuit Judge Steven Henderson was 49. Both were still in their prime, at work as professionals and at home as family men. Neither fit the profile of Covid casualties, at least not of previous covid waves. Henderson died of the disease on Thursday at a hospital in Volusia County. Luciano died the same day at AdventHealth Palm Coast.
Sheriff Rick Staly had spoken to Luciano several days ago. He couldn’t go in to see him in person, but they spoke by phone. “I said keep up the fight,” Staly said. “He said, ‘I am fighting, Sheriff, but it is in God’s hands.’ Then he was put on a ventilator and I couldn’t talk to him anymore.”
For weeks Staly had been emailing his staff across the agency every time a fellow-cop would die of Covid. “Across the state of Florida it’s probably almost one a day of law enforcement officers that are dying from complications of Covid,” he said Friday morning on WNZF, before learning of Luciano’s death. “I can’t tell you how many notifications to our team that we have put out.” He’d been writing them himself, as he always has when an officer dies in the line of duty, and urging his team–an often-reluctant team–every time to get vaccinated. He was already planning to attend an officer’s funeral in St. Johns County on Saturday–Jody Hull, a school resource deputy who’d worked at the St. Johns Sheriff’s Office for four years. It’s another Covid death.
Luciano became the first line-of-duty death at the Sheriff’s Office since the death of Sgt. Frank Celico 10 years ago.
“It’s a tough day for our agency, it’s a tough day for deputy Luciano’s family,” Staly said. “It was something as as sheriff I hoped I’d never never lose a deputy in the line of duty, and unfortunately that occurred today.”
The deputy’s death has cast a pall over an agency hard hit by the delta variant, with numerous staffers out or helping family members through their quarantines and two more deputies in the hospital, one at AdventHealth and one at Halifax in Daytona Beach.
Luciano had started his law enforcement career in 1996 with the Bunnell Police Department, according to a sheriff’s release, later joining the state Department of Corrections in Volusia County, from where he retired, before joining the Flagler Sheriff’s Office in 2019. He worked at the county jail, where “he was always very conscientious and concerned about the well being of the inmates,” Staly said.
Luciano lived in Flagler with his wife Carrie and spoke with pride of his children. “The Lord has blessed me and my wife Carrie in many ways but there’s nothing more wonderful than watching your children grow into good people,” he’d written in June. (Henderson, for his part, was the father of six.)
In a sign tragically emblematic of the times, Luciano’s body was to be taken to a funeral home in Volusia County for now, only because Flagler’s funeral homes are at capacity because of the number of people who have died from the disease in the last few weeks–42 in four weeks. The Sheriff’s Office is escorting the body at 3:45 p.m. in coordination with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office and Daytona Beach police, and a detail will stand honor by the body around the clock until his funeral services are completed, the sheriff said. Those services have not been set yet.
The family was too distraught today to take that step, but the Sheriff’s Office will be assisting. Staly says he expects there will be some form of ceremonial funeral in Flagler in coming days. The agency’s flags will be at half mast for 14 days in recognition of the line-of-duty death.
Just as a deputy’s death resonates across the law enforcement community, a judge’s death resonates equally across the circuit: Volusia is part of the Seventh Judicial Circuit, which includes Flagler, St. Johns and Putnam counties. The county and circuit judges in the circuit are a unique siblinghood. Steven Henderson was one of just 27 circuit judges, who could theoretically sit anywhere in the district, though he was assigned to family court. He’d been a prosecutor in the Seventh Judicial Circuit for seven years before winning an appointment to the bench as a county judge in 2012, then as a circuit judge in 2018.
Merrill S Shapiro says
” Flagler’s funeral homes are at capacity because of the number of people who have died from the disease in the last few weeks–42 in four weeks.” Isn’t this a separate story in and of itself? It seems to me (and I’ll admit to little understanding of anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers) a powerful motivator. If you are reading this, please get a vaccine. Please wear a mask. Those remains at our local funeral homes are hardly “fake news!”
Steve Robinson says
I appreciate that Staly is personally moved and genuinely saddened by the death of Deputy Luciano and worried about the other staffers who are hospitalized with Covid. I can’t help wondering, though, whether the sheriff–who is without question the county’s most popular elected official–has any second thoughts about the video he posted early on in the pandemic in which he forcefully asserted that he would not instruct his deputies to enforce mask wearing. Respected leaders need to lead, and when they do even the most intransigent can often be persuaded to follow.
Sally Port says
God bless them.
My prayers to the family.
The question on everyone’s mind… we’re they vaccinated?? God Bless and Godspeed may they Rest In Eternal Peace.
The family of Deputy Luciano is evidently heartbroken. They have my condolences. I am befuddled by several statements in this article. What about Deputy Luciano’s death from Covid was “in the line of duty”? He passed while he was employed by the Sheriff’s Department, but he did not die while carrying out the duties of his job, did he? I’m also curious as to why the County is spending dollars to escort Deputy Luciano’s body to Volusia County and then stand honor with his body until his funeral services. Is this customary for any police death? Finally, there is no reference in the article that Deputy Luciano had been vaccinated and succumbed to a break-through case of Covid. I am assuming he had not been vaccinated and his death and the family’s sorrow was likely avoidable. I am very sorry if I’ve made this assumption in error.
Across the country officers’ deaths by covid are considered line-of-duty deaths, as a result of the incidence of public contact and likely contraction of the disease through such contacts. Covid deaths are the leading cause of line-of-duty-deaths since 2020.
That doesn’t make sense considering most police don’t wear masks while on duty and dealing with the public. They should not be considered dying in the line of duty. This should be looked at.
Mark Baker says
Seriously, Mark that is all you have to say , how inconsiderate and disrespectful to a man that has served the people of Flagler, with Honor. show a little consideration and respect for those that serve
A death while on Actively employed and on Duty is still a death in the line of Duty, these men and women don’t get the choice , they serve 24 seven.
Mike Cocchiola says
This is a tragedy for all of Flagler County. But if the deaths of these two valued community members encourage others to get vaccinated and mask up in groups, then some small measure of comfort may be had by their families.
Were they vaccinated?
And like has been noted in so many news and hospital reports, , the overall majority of the deaths are from those that are unvaccinated. It really sad if these two men were not vaccinated and passed when maybe a shot could have saved their lives.
Had to take someone to the ER at Advent Health Palm Coast this morning. They’re fine but will be kept overnight. Unfortunately this person will have to wait for a bed – they’re maxed out with COVID patients. We were informed by staff that 90% of the hospitalized COVID patients are unvaccinated.
Prayers to their families, but this is going to keep on happening in a state that chooses to do the absolute bare minimum in fighting a global pandemic. Congrats Florida, you are now the covid epicenter.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Staly lost one of his own because he doesn’t believe in protecting anyone contrary to his boring slogan” An honor to serve a DUTY TO PROTECT”…
No masks for prisoners I know for a fact last summer when an acquaintance of mine spent two weeks in jail: no 6 feet between beds; no hand sanitizer in the inmate quarters – just outside near the laundry etc.
Last year when I filed a complaint against Mullins for sending me continually financially threatening and insulting e-mails from the county server and in his capacity as Commissioner – the deputy who came to our home to take a report had a cheap paper mask falling off his face – his nose was bare.
” You need a better mask than that sir. It’s not doing anything so I am going to move a little further away from you if you don’t mind” ” This is what the Sheriff gives us mam ; nothing I can do”
Sheriff told me in public last year to pay for masks for deputys to keep in their car because his $29 million wasn’t enough to pay for them. HE SHOULD HE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR DEPUTY LUCIANO’S DEATH BEAUSE OF HIS WANTON FALURE TO PROTECT HIS OWN STAFF AND THE PUBLIC in my opinion.
All I can say is I hope no deputy stops me on the road or comes to my home who is not at least wearing a proper N-95 mask and I pray that vaccines become mandatory for all of us just like no drinking and driving, just like no smoking indoors public or private; just like mandatory smallpox, polio, tetanus shots and seatbelts while driving. If you are so afraid of the vaccine please get a job where you can work from home and put the rest of us at risk of dying .
My prayers for those family members who must be personally torturing themselves while grieving at the same time for not insisting their spouses got the vaccine. My heart goes out to them. I hope the Luciano family sues the s…..t out of showman Staly. Amen. May Deputy Luciano and Judge Henderson rest in peace and thank you gentlemen for your contributions to try to make this world a better place…
Amen! 100% agree. There is NO sugarcoating this whatsoever!
wow you must really like your sheriff
how about the fact that we all have the right to choose
just like you have the right to your opinion
just dont blow smoke my way
As many have said, if they weren’t vaccinated, don’t come running to the hospital for help or bother us with the care if you didn’t care to help yourself. But I’m curious, is that still the sentiment when it’s a person of uniform and status? Or only the loons you picture in your head with read hats ? Get vaccinated , not only to save your life but to save your family from grief
Crazy that we have a governor who is willing to go to court to fight masks in schools, refuses to lead just because he must believe that this is how he may woo the Republican base for 2024. DeSantis is one of the worst culprits in the country. Is he “leading”? Yes….people to their unfortunate demise. TAKE THE VACCINE. I have no sympathy for those people dying because they did not get it. I have a neighbor who wouldn’t get the vaccine until a co-worker died. Thankfully that person got the first shot so far. USE YOUR HEADS FOR MORE THAN A BALL CAP RACK! PEACE TO THOSE THAT HAVE LOST LOVED ONES.
DeSantis must be rolling in the dough from all the Covid related companies he invested in before working so hard to get people to spread the virus
Such nastiness, attacks and bickering here… Good neighbors need love, support and encouragement, not this.