Tributes pour in from Michigan officials mourning the loss of Sheriff Benny Napoleon

It is rare that a public servant is known by his first name only, but in Detroit that is how it was with "Benny." On Thursday night Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon died of complications from COVID-19 at Henry Ford Hospital. 

His death leaves behind a giant loss in law enforcement and in public service in the city. Condolences have come from every area of the state for the lifelong Detroiter from officials after he lost a long battle with COVID-19 at just 65 years old.

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer called his loss heart-breaking.

"Sheriff Napoleon’s love for the people he served was returned many times over. His quick laugh, eager partnership, and candid counsel is what I will miss most. Sharon, Tiffani and his whole family are in my prayers."

Napoleon joined the Detroit police at 19 and worked his way up to chief under Mayor Dennis Archer. He once ran against Mike Duggan in 2013 in the race for mayor but lost. He has been Wayne County Sheriff since 2009.

Duggan released a statement saying he loved Detroit as much as anyone the mayor has ever known.

"I am shocked and saddened at the loss of one of our city’s greatest public servants and native sons, Benny Napoleon," Duggan said. "I cannot think of a leader in this town who has been more loved and admired than Benny.  He was born in the city, served our community courageously his entire adult life, and loved Detroit as much as anyone I’ve ever known. Please keep his daughter Tiffani, his family and friends, and the entire Wayne County Sheriffs Office in your prayers as they struggle with their painful loss."

Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist spoke of the influence Napoleon had on not just on the community but on young leaders like himself. 

"Benny’s loss hits hard in the soul of so many people in southeast Michigan who had a chance to connect with him over his decades of service, and his legacy leaves our lives better because of his presence. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. Rest in power.

"Benny was a pillar in the community—a model public servant who led by example through conscientious words and selfless service. He offered himself as a mentor at every opportunity, so that young leaders, like myself, can be, believe in, and become our greatest selves."

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel - himself the former Macomb County Sheriff - knew Napoleon well and posted about how he'll remember him.

"Benny Napoleon was truly a gentleman in every sense of the word. I am saddened by the loss of a man who spent most of his life serving others as a peace officer and leader in the law enforcement community. I am grateful to have been his friend."

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said she had worked closely with Napoleon since she took office including on PPE plans to protect his deputies who he cared so much for.

"I could always count on Benny for his support, his input and his cooperation. He was a wonderful man and his passing is a loss not only for his family but also for his many friends and co-workers," Nessel wrote in a statement. "Benny had so much life yet to live; our community has once again lost someone larger than life to this vicious pandemic. My heart goes out to Benny’s family. It was an honor and a privilege to call him my sheriff."

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy released a statement saying she "cannot imagine a world without him in it."

"He was a beloved, iconic, and respected law enforcement official. He was progressive and he was old school," she said. "He was tough and he had a heart of gold. But most of all, he was a genuine, caring, and loyal friend and colleague. I will miss him forever."

US Attorney Matthew Schneider weighed in with a statement.

"I always enjoyed spending time with Benny.  We worked together closely on law enforcement matters to protect the families and neighborhoods of Wayne County.  Through those challenging times, Benny’s smile always brightened our days."