A veteran Suffolk County Police Department lieutenant died Wednesday from the coronavirus, marking the first such fatality among the active sworn ranks of the law enforcement agency that now will honor him with a line-of-duty funeral.
Lt. Robert Van Zeyl, 60, was a divorced father of two who had worked in Suffolk's Second Precinct in the Town of Huntington since 2015, according to department officials.
They said he tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 3 before his hospitalization began a week later.
Van Zeyl joined the department in February 1985, serving "with distinction" for nearly 36 years, Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said in a statement.
He earned more than a dozen awards, including two "Cop of the Month" honors and an "Excellent Police Duty Award" for making a dozen or more self-initiated drunken driving arrests in one year, officials said.
Van Zeyl started out working in the Fifth Precinct, headquartered in Patchogue, before earning a promotion to sergeant in 1994 and becoming a lieutenant in 2003. He served as commanding officer of the Applicant Investigation Section and the Administrative Service Bureau before moving to the Second Precinct, officials said.
Sgt. Jack Smithers, who worked with Van Zeyl in that precinct, called the late lieutenant "a great boss, and more importantly, a great friend," in a statement from the department.
Stuart Cameron, Suffolk's top uniformed officer, said he and Van Zeyl were sworn into the department at the same time.
He called Van Zeyl's death "heartbreaking," saying in a statement that it "exemplifies the multifaceted dangers that members of our department face every day to keep the residents of our county safe."
The lieutenant's death from coronavirus happened months after Suffolk auxiliary police Capt. Anthony DeNoyior, 55, suffered the same fate.
DeNoyior, a married father of two, had been a volunteer with the department for about 18 years before his April death.