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‘Don’t let him just become a memory’: Honoring Jacksonville Beach police sergeant who died from COVID-19

Community remembers Sgt. Daniel Watts, 49, in memorial service Friday

Jacksonville Beach Police Sergeant Daniel Watts will be laid to rest today after a service.
Jacksonville Beach Police Sergeant Daniel Watts will be laid to rest today after a service.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville Beach Police Department sergeant who died from complications related to COVID-19 was honored Friday with a celebration of life at the Church of Eleven22′s San Pablo campus.

Sgt. Daniel Watts, 49, was a decorated veteran member of the department.

The same day the Jacksonville Beach community gathered to mourn Watts, the Lake City community also laid to rest a first responder who died from COVID-19 complications: Fire Chief Randy Burnham.

It’s the second week in a row two local communities are holding ceremonies under these circumstances.

COVID-19 is now the leading cause of law enforcement “line of duty” deaths.

Chief Gene Smith, with the Police Department, said Watts previously worked with the Atlantic Beach Police Department, where he served four years. He started with Jacksonville Beach police in 2002 as a patrol officer and became a detective two years later.

He transferred to the position of downtown CAPE officer in 2012, was promoted to corporal in 2013 and worked as a patrol until he moved to the rank of detective corporal in 2015, the Police Department said. He was promoted to sergeant and moved pack to patrol in April of this year.

Smith said Watts served on the SWAT team for over 10 years.

A photo shared by the department showed Watts’ son, Eli, paying his respects to his father at the police headquarters next to his father’s car.

Jacksonville Beach Police Sgt. Daniel Watts' son, Eli, pays his respects to his father at the police headquarters next to his father's car. (Photo provided)

During Friday’s memorial, Watts was celebrated for his kindness and concern for others that led him to a career in law enforcement. Loved ones and colleagues said he worked tirelessly to make the community a better place.

“Everyone and I mean everyone had a Dan story,” Smith said. “Remember the Dan stories. Remember how the communities embrace us.”

Watts was a family man who loved to spend time with his two sons.

“If you say that you love him, change something in your life. Do something in your life. Don’t let him just become a memory,” Chief Victor Gualillo said. “For Dan, I’m never going to let my ego or my opinion come in between me and one of my friends.”

Watts is remembered for his passion, trustworthiness and brotherhood.

“Dan you are my friend and will forever live in my heart brother,” said David Young with Jacksonville Beach police.

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 132 members of law enforcement are known to have died from COVID-19 complications.

A GoFundMe account has been set up for Watts’ sons.


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Weekend morning reporter and multi-media journalist.

Multi-media journalist with a special interest in Georgia issues.