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Sheriff Napoleon keeping his spirits up as he fights COVID-19, daughter says at prayer vigil

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

Detroit — As Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon continues to battle COVID-19 he keeps his spirits up by thinking of what his father would say to him during this time: "son, you in God's hands," his only daughter says.

On Sunday afternoon, Napoleon's family led a prayer vigil for him at the Wayne County Sheriff's Office on Woodward. 

"Don't let fear and anxiety take over. We just have to stand united and believe that my father will walk out of that hospital the same way that he walked in to that hospital," said Napoleon's daughter, Tiffani Jackson. 

"I understand that you all are overcome with emotions and I think that speaks volumes of his character. ... That is my best friend laying in that hospital bed so I understand how you all feel not being able to reach out, talk to him."

Tiffani Jackson, daughter of Benny Napoleon, thanks people for their support at  a prayer vigil Nov. 29, 2020, at the Wayne County Sheriff's Office on Woodward.

Napoleon, 65, reportedly has had low oxygen levels while hospitalized. The sheriff's office announced Napoleon's diagnosis on Nov. 19, and he was hospitalized the following day.

The sheriff was placed on a ventilator Friday to preserve the energy he was exerting to breathe, Jackson said. 

More than 50 people gathered for the vigil, including family members, officers, chaplains and elected official such as Wayne County Executive Warren Evans. 

Napoleon's 84-year-old mother sat in a car in front of the sheriff's office during the vigil. Napoleon is the fourth of her five children to become seriously ill from COVID-19, Jackson said. 

In March, Napoleon's brother, Hilton, who is Highland Park's chief of police, caught the virus and was hospitalized for 71 days.

At left, Tiffani Jackson, daughter of Benny Napoleon and her family react while Pastor Alvin Jackson Sr., right, prays at a prayer vigil for Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon at the Wayne County Sheriff's Office on Nov. 29, 2020.

Alvin Jackson Sr., Tiffani Jackson's father-in-law and pastor of Wings of Love Ministry Baptist Church, led a prayer for Napoleon and others with the virus. 

"We ask that you would deliver them from this vicious virus. You alone can restore their health and their strength. We ask in the name of Jesus that God would bring wholeness. We ask in the name of Jesus that God would touch the hands of the doctors and nurses who are out on the front line," Jackson Sr. prayed. 

The virus has hit the sheriff's office hard. In May, Donafay Collins, commander of the division 2 jail, died at 63 after contracting it. Two deputies and two doctors who worked at the jail also died after contracting the virus.

Sheriff's office employees are tested daily, downtown at the division 1 facility, and in Hamtramck at its division facility.

"As we all continue to support and pray for the sheriff in this critical time, the undersheriff, chief of staff, all of our chiefs, they assure you that the operations of this agency are continuing," said Paula Bridges, a spokeswoman for the Wayne County Sheriff's Office.

"We have never let up and we will not let you down. We'll steer this ship as Sheriff Napoleon has guided us to do these 11 years."