A northern California police detective who grew up in San Diego had her end of watch Tuesday as a result of the coronavirus.
Marylou Armer’s love for law enforcement began when she joined the National City Police Department’s Explorer program.
“She's a very caring person and wanted to be there to help the community," said her sister Marites Lau via an online chat from her Riverside County home.
Lau said she knew danger came with her younger sister's job, but never expected a silent killer would take her life.
"We never thought that this COVID-19 is the one that's going to put her in the hospital and take her away from us," said Lau.
About two weeks ago, Lau talked to her sister who’d been suffering from flu-like symptoms for two weeks. She told Lau she’d never felt this type of sickness in her body before.
Detective Armer’s fight for life began about a week later when she was hospitalized on March 23.
"She could barely get a word in without having a hard time breathing," her sister explained.
Lau says her final communication with her younger sister came via text message. Armer said doctors had to put her to sleep and intubate her.
To keep her sister in good spirits, Lau recorded pep talks doctors would play for Armer, urging her to get better and letting her know her family was thinking about her daily.
Doctors told Lau it was working.
"When she heard our voices her heartbeat went up a bit and she improved a little so, you know, I’m praying that she did hear it," Lau said.
Unfortunately, Armer, a 43-year-old wife and stepmother, lost her fight with COVID-19 Tuesday.
Her death is the first line of duty death of a police officer in California to be associated with the disease, according to Governor Gavin Newsom's office.
“Jennifer and I are terribly saddened to learn of Detective Armer’s untimely death. Amid the current fight against COVID-19, Detective Armer selflessly and courageously served her community and the people of California. We extend our heartfelt condolences to her family, friends, colleagues and members of the Santa Rosa community as they mourn her loss," Newsom said.
Flags at the state capitol were flown at half-staff in Armer's honor.
A tribute of flowers and balloons have been placed outside the Santa Rosa Police Department where Armer helped protect and serve the community for 20 years.
And the Peace Officers Research Association of California has set up a page to fundraise for the family.
“She was a bright light in this organization. She was always a proactive, thoughtful and committed public servant,” said Santa Rosa Police Chief Rainer Navarro.
Her family now hopes people will honor her sacrifice by taking this pandemic seriously, so they won’t have to suffer the same pain.
"You can't be with your loved one. You’re away, you can't see them. You can't hug them. You can't talk to them and you don't want it to get to that point," Lau said as her voice quivered.
Lau said she doesn’t know how her sister contracted COVID-19, but Armer was one of at least seven officers on the Santa Rosa police force that tested positive.