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Fla. family of fallen cop fights DOJ for benefits

Doctors, the police, and the family all believe the hepatitis C complications he died of were a direct result of an on-duty incident

By Policeone Staff

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The family of a fallen Orange County Sheriff’s deputy is caught in a legal battle with the Department of Justice over benefits stemming from the deputy’s death over eight years ago.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Deputy Mariano Lemus died on May 6, 2005, of complications associated with hepatitis C – a disease that Lemus’s doctor, family, and the sheriff’s office say he contracted while on duty.

Deputy Mariano Lemus (Photo courtesy Orange County Sheriff's Office)
Deputy Mariano Lemus (Photo courtesy Orange County Sheriff's Office)

The DOJ has denied the family’s benefit claim, arguing that Lemus could have contracted the disease in a number of different ways – including from a venereal disease he received over 20 years prior to his law enforcement career or through a pair of tattoos, according to the report.

“He left this world thinking his family was going to be taken care of — his kids, his grandkids,” said Lemus’s widow, Robyn. “This is an ongoing nightmare that we can’t wake up from.”

Despite the family’s and sheriff’s office’s strong belief that Lemus contracted the disease after being bitten during a domestic violence call several years prior to his diagnosis, records of multiple instances of exposure while on the job have made an exact infection date unclear.

The legal battle, which began in 2007, has hit a stand-still. Lemus’ family is unable to sue until the DOJ announces a ruling in the family’s final appeal. That appeal was filed in 2009, according to the report. 

“This is a benefit for someone’s life that will never be again,” Robyn Lemus said. “They have no right to pick and choose who receives it.”

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