Third Harris County deputy dies of COVID-19, officials say

TEXAS – Another Harris County sheriff’s deputy has died from COVID-19, the sheriff’s office said Tuesday, taking the pandemic death toll in the law enforcement agency to three.

Deputy Johnny Tunches, 56, died Tuesday after being hospitalized for nearly a month, the office said in a statement. Tunches was with the sheriff's office for 29 years.

Friends and colleagues of Deputy Tunches told KPRC 2 that they will remember him for his hard work and dedication and for being such a great friend.

“Johnny’s left a lasting impression on everyone’s he’s touched. He was a good man, he worked hard, you asked him to do something he got it done,” said Sgt. Albert Ashworth, with the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, District 2.

Deputy Johnny Tunches served the Harris County Sheriff’s Department District 2 for 29 years.

He’s received many awards during his service including Deputy of the month. His colleagues said he’s always helpful and encouraging.

“He would tell me hey I hear you’re doing a great job like keep up the good work,” said Deputy Jessica Leggett, with the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, District 2.

Deputy Tunches got sick last month and was hospitalized with Coronavirus.

Friends and colleagues held a prayer vigil outside the hospital during his months-long battle.

“I said hope you feel better, get well soon you need to get back to grilling. He said, “Lol and some other comments,' and said 'COVID is no joke.” That’s the last communication,” said Sgt. Ray Coronado, with the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, District 2.

Deputy Tunches died early Tuesday morning, becoming the third sheriff’s department deputy to die from COVID-19.

Sgt. Raymond Scholwinski died back in May and Deputy Juan Menchaca died on June 13.

“Anytime you lose a brother or sister in this line of work it’s hard it’s never easy,” said Sgt. Ashworth.

“We always helped each other out we were always talking, he will be missed,” said FTO Manny Martinez, with the Harris County Sheriff’sOffice.

“We are going to embrace his family and lift them up and keep them close to us and we thank everyone for all the prayers and condolences from the Harris County community,” said Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.

Deputy Tunches is survived by his wife and three daughters.

Funeral arrangements are now underway.

His death was announced a day after Texas overtook California in reporting the largest total number of positive coronavirus tests since the start of the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. As of Monday, Texas had recorded 943,592 cumulative cases compared to California's 942,317.

The true number of infections is likely higher because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

Texas, the second-most populous state in the U.S. with more than 29 million, has reported 18,542 COVID-19-related deaths to date, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers. That death toll is the second highest in the country and the 21st highest per capita at 64.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

Over the past two weeks, the rolling average of daily new cases has increased by 1,166.1, or 22.8%. There were 297.4 new cases per 100,000 people in Texas over the past two weeks, which ranks 29th in the country for new cases per capita.

There were more than 105,000 active cases in the state and more than 787,000 people have recovered, according to the Texas health department.

Coronavirus infections are surging across the U.S. In Texas, voters cast ballots in person on Tuesday. The state is one of five that did not significantly expand mail-in voting because of the virus.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and a cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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