Roma Police Chief Jose H. Garcia died due to complications from COVID-19 on Monday.
Garcia’s family first reported he had tested positive for COVID-19 on social media in early December but his condition quickly worsened, with the city holding a prayer on Dec. 9 for him and others who had fallen ill to the disease.
Garcia, 58, was first hospitalized at Starr County Memorial Hospital but later transferred to DHR Health, according to City Manager Crisanto Salinas.
“We’re very, very saddened by this,” Mayor Jaime Escobar Jr. said Monday. “Chief Garcia is very well-respected and very well liked.”
“He got along with everybody,” the mayor added. “(He was) somebody that’s very dear to our hearts.”
“My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and to the entire police department,” Escobar said.
Prior to contracting COVID-19, Escobar said the chief had submitted his notice of retirement and was expected to retire on Dec. 31.
Assistant Chief Francisco Garcia is currently the acting police chief.
“The City of Roma and our entire community mourn the loss today of Roma Police Chief Jose H. “Beto” Garcia,” the city said in a statement posted on social media. “Chief Garcia faithfully served Roma as a law enforcement officer for 36 years. He began his law enforcement career in 1984 and led the department as Chief of Police for 27.5 years.”
According to the statement, Garcia rose through the ranks, holding multiple positions within the city including fire chief and fire marshal, emergency management coordinator, and director of public safety.
“Through his strong leadership and commitment, Chief Garcia laid the foundation to build a community-oriented police force committed to serving and protecting life and property,” the city stated, noting that during the last four years of Garcia’s time as police chief, Roma continuously ranked in the top 10 safest cities in the state.
“Chief Garcia’s selfless leadership, smile, and tremendous faith will be dearly missed by all who knew him,” the statement continued. “We extend our deepest condolences to his loving family and will continue to pray for them as we all grieve his passing.”
A viewing will be held for Garcia from 1 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Sanchez Funeral Home in Roma. The funeral service will be from 8-10 a.m. Thursday, with the funeral procession then heading to Starr County Memorial Cemetery on FM 650.