Texas deputy dies after weeks-long battle with COVID-19

Sgt. Raymond Scholwinski was the first known coronavirus-related fatality among Houston-area law enforcement


Julian Gill
Houston Chronicle

HOUSTON — Harris County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Raymond Scholwinski died Wednesday after a weeks-long battle with COVID-19, becoming one of the first known coronavirus-related fatalities among Houston-area law enforcement agencies.

Scholwinski, 70, was among thousands of first responders nationwide in mid-March to be sickened by the virus. His symptoms had worsened when he was hospitalized March 29. He was put on a ventilator and fought for his life in the Memorial Hermann ICU, according to earlier reports in the Houston Chronicle.

Harris County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Raymond Scholwinski died Wednesday after a weeks-long battle with COVID-19. He was the first known COVID-19-related fatality in the Houston area. (Photo/HCSO)
Harris County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Raymond Scholwinski died Wednesday after a weeks-long battle with COVID-19. He was the first known COVID-19-related fatality in the Houston area. (Photo/HCSO)

A full-time deputy for 26 years, his most recent assignment was the day watch Contract Sergeant in District 2, where he helped run public safety town halls with residents.

"Sgt. Scholwinski represented the best of the Harris County Sheriff's Office family," said Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. "Whether he was on patrol, making a neighborhood association presentation, or in the field during hurricanes, tropical storms, and other disasters, Ray consistently delivered for the people of Harris County. We will miss our brother and we will honor his legacy of service."

His wife, Rynda Scholwinski, spoke of her husband’s caring nature in an interview last month with the Chronicle. He always looked out for her and helped elderly residents at the complex where she used to live, she said.

“I never thought I wouldn’t be able to be with my husband when he’s so sick,” she said.

Rynda said when they met 35 years ago his heart was set on the sheriff’s office. At the time, he was working at the apartment complex where she lived and slowly began courting her.

When she cut her hand on shattered glass, and needed surgery, he drove her to and from the appointment. He brought her meals and flowers. He eventually asked her to marry him on a camping trip a year after they met. By then, she’d long since fallen for him.

Scholwinski started working at the sheriff’s office in 1979 as a reserve deputy. He joined full-time soon after they tied the knot. It was a nerve-wracking experience for Rynda, she said, but it never prepared her for the pandemic.

“They go through training how to learn how to approach a vehicle to make a stop, how to answer a door when they’re going to a domestic violence call” she said at the time of the interview. “But you can’t even train against this.” The sergeant was one of the first sheriff’s office employees to contract the virus, a department spokesman said.

Rynda believes he may have caught the virus March 16, when the sergeant met with a deputy who later tested positive for COVID-19. Fever and fatigue arrived a few days later.

In the hospital, doctors prescribed hydroxychloroquine, the medicine President Donald Trump had touted. By the next day, doctors told Rynda that Raymond wasn’t responding to the medication anymore.

Scholwinski’s colleagues said he worked long hours, helping frustrated residents and attending community meetings. He loved people and his job, one captain told the Chronicle.

“He was a colleague and friend to many of us and will be missed dearly,” according to a Facebook post from the Harris County Deputies’ Organization.“We will continue to keep his family in our prayers during this difficult time. Blessed are the Peacemakers.”

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo also offered condolences on social media.

“His service earned him the community’s love and support,” she said. “Law enforcement are part of the front lines in this fight."

Scholwinski had been one of 12 sheriff’s office employees who as of Wednesday were hospitalized because of the virus. He was among 256 total employees battling the disease, including 229 who work in the jail.

COVID-19: Law enforcement deaths

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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