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'Devoted to his family' | Coroner links Pearl River detective's death to coronavirus

The 20-year law enforcement veteran suffered an apparent heart attack on Thursday while working, city officials say. He later also tested positive for COVID-19.

ST. TAMMANY PARISH, La. — The Pearl River community is mourning the loss of a police detective who died from respiratory failure linked to coronavirus, according to a report released Friday by the parish coroner. 

St. Tammany Parish Coroner Dr. Charles Preston said Gaudet's official cause of death was acute respiratory failure secondary to COVID-19. The coroner's office found that Gaudet's death was caused by fluid in his lungs, a symptom of coronavirus. 

According to former Pearl River Police Chief J.J. Jennings, Captain Steven Gaudet Jr. passed away from what appeared at first to be a heart attack while working.

After his passing, Gaudet tested positive for COVID-19, according to Pearl River Mayor David McQueen.

"This officer was devoted to his job his family and kids," Jennings said in a post on Facebook. "You will be missed by so many friends and family. Prayers are with you and your family." 

Jennings said Gaudet was a 20-year veteran in law enforcement who had moved to Pearl River last year to be closer to his community.

Mayor McQueen, who did not specifically identify the officer, described him as a good man and a good detective who had been with the department "for a good while." 

After Gaudet's positive test result, McQueen said he had all the department tested, which is around 20 members. One current officer also tested positive and is now in quarantine, and was reported to be in good health.   

The Pearl River town hall, which houses the police department, was cleaned Thursday night and all police vehicles were scheduled to be cleaned Friday, McQueen said. He said he was scheduled for a COVID-19 test in Slidell that day.

No further information, including memorial services details, was immediately available.

Condolences for Gaudet's family were shared on social media Friday morning, including from St. Tammany Parish Fire District #11.

"Our hearts, our thoughts and our prayers are with our brothers and sisters in blue at the Pearl River Police Department. To the beautiful family of Captain Gaudet, we are heartbroken for you all. May the peace that he brought to our community and its people be the light that continues to shine brightly in your lives, in your hearts and in your memories. Once PRPD shares more we will as well. What they need right now is our love and support," they said. 

"Mandeville Fire/EMS extends our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Captain Steven Gaudet Jr., and the entire Pearl River Police Department," St. Tammany Parish Fire District #4 also said. 

40 years ago, we had 17 minutes to escape our homes in the event of ... a fire. Today, due to synthetic materials, furniture, and construction, we now have 3 minutes to escape. Fire Department response time matters greatly.

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