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Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon dies of complications from COVID-19

Wayne County

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon has died after contracting COVID-19.

Napoleon was 65 years old.  He was admitted to the hospital on November 21, and died several weeks after being placed on a ventilator.

Napoleon was appointed sheriff in 2009, and he was elected to the position in 2012, and reelected every four years since then. 

Napoleon began his career as a police officer in the Detroit Police Department. He became police chief in 1998, and retired from the department in 2001.

In 2013, Napoleon lost in the race for Detroit Mayor against Mike Duggan.

In a statement, Duggan said:

"I am shocked and saddened at the loss of one of our city’s greatest public servants and native sons, Benny Napoleon.  

I cannot think of a leader in this town who has been more loved and admired than Benny.  He was born in the city, served our community courageously his entire adult life, and loved Detroit as much as anyone I’ve ever known."

“I am heartbroken at the news of my dear friend Benny’s passing," said Governor Gretchen Whitmer in a statement. "Sheriff Napoleon’s love for the people he served was returned many times over. His quick laugh, eager partnership, and candid counsel is what I will miss most. He was a truly special person."

Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II called Napoleon's passing a tremendous loss for the city of Detroit, Wayne County, and the entire state of Michigan.

"Benny was a pillar in the community," Gilchrist said. "A model public servant who led by example through conscientious words and selfless service. All throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Sheriff Napoleon stood tall on the front lines alongside members of his department to ensure that our community had what it needed to get through this crisis together. He was a progressive ally and champion for changing the justice system to better serve society. And he offered himself as a mentor at every opportunity, so that young leaders, like myself, can be, believe in, and become our greatest selves."

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, in a statement, said she cannot even begin to imagine a world without Benny in it.

"He was a beloved, iconic, and respected law enforcement official. He was progressive and he was old school. He was tough and he had a heart of gold. But most of all, he was a genuine, caring, and loyal friend and colleague. I will miss him forever.”

Napoleon is survived by his daughter, Tiffani Jackson; his 84-year-old mother and his four siblings. 


Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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