Pembroke Park, FL – An insurance claim for a Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy who died in the line of duty due to COVID-19 complications has been denied twice by the fallen deputy’s insurance company, American International Group Inc. (AIG), according to his family.
BSO Deputy Shannon Bennett, 39, succumbed to the novel coronavirus on April 3.
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said at the time that Deputy Bennett contracted COVID-19 “in the line of duty,” the Miami Herald reported.
Still reeling from the crushing blow of losing their loved one, Deputy Bennett’s family said they recently received a letter from AIG denying their claim for an accidental line-of-duty-death, according to WPLG.
Deputy Bennett’s brother, Darren Bennett, said they were shocked by the news.
“Essentially, while my family is grappling with trying to get our bearings back, this type of letter comes in and of course it floors us,” he told WPLG.
According to the letter, the claim was denied because the company said Deputy Bennett’s death did not qualify as an accident or as an injury.
“Rather, his death was caused in whole or in part by, or resulted in whole or in part from sickness or disease, specifically excluded under this policy,” the AIG letter read, according to WPLG.
The BSO filed an appeal with AIG in an attempt to correct the situation, but AIG denied that, too.
According to the company, certain health conditions are classified as “accidental and caused by employment” under Florida law, but the recently-discovered novel coronavirus is not among them, WPLG reported.
“It was bad enough to have a family member, a loved one die, a brother, a best friend, a companion, a son, die,” Darren Bennett said. “Just the trauma of trying to regain your composure and your bearings and now you get a letter, an insensitive letter, not even a phone call, but just a letter, telling you that this claim has been denied. The benefits that would be given to your family are not going to be given out.”
He noted that the family is more upset about the principle of the matter and the poor way the insurance company handled the situation than they are about the money, WPLG reported.
“For us, it’s about awareness,” Darren Bennett said. “We want to make sure that any other agency that is partnering with AIG would potentially completely dismantle their relationship.”
Sheriff Tony said that the BSO will continue to fight AIG on behalf of Deputy Bennett’s family, WECT reported.
“We pay thousands of dollars each year for this insurance, and I’m extremely disappointed that AIG is denying this claim,” Sheriff Tony said. “We will exhaust all appeals. I have directed my command staff to review our contract with AIG. We hope as we have further dialogue with AIG, they recognize the global impact in [the] message that they are sending to our first responders.”
AIG has refused to comment on the matter, according to multiple news outlets.
Deputy Bennett began feeling ill while on duty on March 23, so he went off shift early that day, Sheriff Tony said in a press release in early April.
On March 24, he went to the hospital, where he was tested for the novel coronavirus.
The test came back positive on March 27, according to the BSO.
“He was showing signs of recovery, and it turned for the worse last night,” Sheriff Tony told WSVN at the time.
“His white blood cells started to go back up,” explained Darren Bennett. “The fever went down, wasn’t coming back, but apparently his heart couldn’t take the work that had ensued over the course of that time, so he died peacefully in his sleep.”
Deputy Bennett succumbed to complications of COVID-19 just before midnight April 3, Sheriff Tony told the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Deputy Bennett’s law enforcement career began on June 6, 2007, when he joined the BSO as a detention deputy, according to the sheriff’s press release.
In August of 2011, he was assigned to the BSO’s Department of Law Enforcement as a road patrol deputy, and was stationed in Pompano Beach.
Deputy Bennett returned to his detention deputy position approximately one year later before spending six years as a patrol deputy in Lauderdale Lakes
He had been serving as a school resource officer at Deerfield Beach Elementary School since January of 2019.
“With my [11-year-old] daughter having autism, I was very concerned about her, but he made her feel secure,” resident Juliana Calgaro told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “My daughter loved him. He was a great guy. He will be very missed on campus.”
Deerfield Beach Elementary School Principal Andrew Gerlach said that Deputy Bennett was “a caring and loving resource officer who was always willing to go above and beyond to support our students and community,” according to the paper.
“The Deerfield Beach Elementary School family lost an amazing human being and an awesome colleague to COVID-19,” Gerlach said in a statement. “Our school community is truly saddened by his passing and extends our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.”
“His personality was infectious and he built positive relationships that impacted both children and adults,” the school principal added. “His legacy will be forever remembered.”
Sheriff Tony described Deputy Bennett as a “fine deputy” and “consummate professional,” according to the press release.
He also praised him for his commitment in helping to “bridge the gap” between the LGBTQ community and law enforcement, the BSO said.
“I ask that you keep Shannon’s family members in your prayers, but keep Shannon within your heart,” Sheriff Tony said. “His legacy will be carried on in our performance.”
Deputy Bennett leaves behind his fiancé, Jonathan, as well as his mother and his brother.