Nassau County police, family and friends said goodbye Monday to the first Nassau County cop to die from COVID-19, underscoring how the virus remains a threat 18 months after the pandemic hit Long Island.
At funeral services in Miller Place, more than 500 police officers, including some on horseback and motorcycles, saluted Officer Charles "Chuck" Vroom, who died Sept. 12 at the age of 52 from COVID-19, officials said.
Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said he could not say whether Vroom was vaccinated against the virus, but his death signaled how dangerous the disease continues to be — and the need for people to get vaccinated.
"You lose a 52-year-old young man like this, it brings the attention to that vaccine and the importance of getting it done," Ryder told Newsday just before services at O.B. Davis Funeral Homes got underway.
Hundreds of cops in uniform lined Route 25A as a hearse carrying Vroom slowly made its way down the road toward the funeral home. Bagpipes and drums rang out from members of the Nassau County Police Emerald Society Pipe Band.
"Vroom died as he lived, a hero who placed public service ahead of any concern for personal safety," said Michael Spadaccini, president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association. "His death, a mere day after the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and his own participation in the recovery efforts, highlights the ever-present danger inherent in policing and stands in testament to the heroism of sacrifice in the line of duty."
Spadaccini added, "Through the ongoing COVID pandemic in Nassau County, our police officers and medics staff police ambulances and work as true first responders alongside health care professionals, ensuring not only the safety of our residents but their health as well."
Vroom died at a hospital which officials declined to identity. Ryder said that Vroom’s father also has COVID-19 and is in an ICU unit.
COVID-19 was the top killer of police officers in the United States this year as of June, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund says. It is the second year in a row the virus has been the top killer of cops.
"The first six months of this year have demonstrated that America’s law enforcement officers are still battling the deadly effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with some 71 officers dying as a result of contracting the disease while executing official duties," a report from the group states.
In the same period in 2020, 76 police officers died from the virus, the report said.
Ryder said the department was hard hit by COVID-19 during the pandemic, with at least 1,000 personnel infected.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who also attended the funeral, noted that police were typically the first ones to arrive on the scene when someone who believed they were suffering from the virus called for an ambulance.
Vroom served in the department for 17 years and was based in the Third Precinct in Williston Park
He leaves behind an 18-year-old son, Sean, who stood in a black suit outside the funeral home as officers in full dress carried the coffin out and placed it in a hearse.
Sean is "going to need some fathers in him, and that’s what’s going to come from us," Ryder said. "We’ll be that father for him."
Officer William Borchers, who served with Vroom for years in the Third Precinct, said Vroom was a mentor to many officers.
"When you met him, once you got past the lighthearted sarcasm … he was a teacher, almost like a father figure … using his experience and hoping that you gain from it," Borchers said. "He used to call me rookie all the time. He called everybody rookie.
"But when he said that, in the end you realized that there’s something else coming that you have to listen to, because you’re about to learn something," he said.
Borchers added: "I’m a better father, husband, and cop thanks to him."