The unexpected loss of a Bainbridge Island police officer serves as a reminder of the deadly threat of COVID-19, city officials said Friday.
Bainbridge officials said Bainbridge Police Officer Kurt Enget had been in a Bremerton hospital for five days with symptoms similar to COVID-19 before he passed away Friday morning.
Enget, 49, was the first police officer in the city’s history to die in the line of duty, according to the Bainbridge Island Police Department.
At a press conference Friday afternoon, City Manager Morgan Smith and Interim Police Chief Scott Weiss recalled Enget as a beloved employee who was known by everyone at city hall.
And well outside those walls, as well. His position as the police department’s K-9 officer made him a well known and popular person across the island, they said.
“As an officer with the Bainbridge Island Police Department working in our community the past five years, he’s been an important part of a very close team, who put their lives on the line together every day,” Smith said.
“Today, our hearts go out to Officer Enget’s family; his wife of 21 years Yevette, and their three children.
“We are a very small city. There isn’t one of our 130 employees who hasn’t met Officer Enget. His passing will leave a hole in our city that is difficult to accept,” Smith said, her voice breaking slightly.
Enget became a police officer in 2005, first with the Suquamish Police Department, where he worked for a decade before joining the Bainbridge department in 2015.
He completed K-9 training in 2017 and at the time of his death, his partner was the city’s newest police dog, Whitney.
Smith’s last day at work was Friday, March 27. He was admitted to Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton on Sunday, April 5.
“Early this morning, he passed away at the hospital. At this time, we know he was presenting symptoms of COVID-19,” Smith said.
It’s not yet known if Enget had actually contracted the coronavirus.
The Kitsap County Coroner’s Office will determine the cause of death, Smith added.
“This loss is another reminder of the danger of COVID-19 and the devastating impacts to our city, our region, and the entire world,” she added.
“The numbers that we are hearing are more than statistics — each one represents a friend, a family member, a neighbor or a colleague. For each death reported, there is a personal story. And now, for Bainbridge Island, the story of what is happening across the world is also our own story of sadness and grief,” Smith said.
The press conference was held in a nearly empty council chambers, which has been serving as the city’s Emergency Operations Center since the COVID-19 outbreak hit Bainbridge Island.
Tables for the operation center, and chairs still hung with red, green and blue EOC vests, were pushed to the walls to make way for a single camera that was providing pool video for Seattle television stations. Just a Q13 FOX news cameraman and a single print reporter from the Review were allowed into the room for the conference, in observance of COVID-19 safety precautions.
The conference was also filmed for broadcast on Bremerton Kitsap Access Television’s its video-on-demand site.
To those watching, Smith urged the public to help contain the spread of COVID-19.
“What you do each day matters to others, now more than ever,” Smith said. “The daily decisions that you make may mean putting yourself at risk, and by association, others. Please do what you can to support Gov. Inslee’s ‘Stay Home, Stay Health’ order and to do everything possible to keep yourself and your neighbors safe.”
“As a city, we have essential workers, like Officer Enget, who continue to come to work every day to patrol the street and investigate crimes,” she added. “And while our first responders continue to do their job to keep the community safe, please do your part in turn to support them. In this way, you can best remember Officer Enget and honor his service to Bainbridge Island.”
Enget, a South Kitsap resident, is survived by wife, Yevette, three children and two grandchildren.
Weiss, who was wearing a black mourning band on his badge, recalled that he had been the officer to conduct the background check on Enget before he joined the Bainbridge department.
“I heard nothing but good things from everybody I talked to; about how much he cared for people. He would give you the shirt off his back,” Weiss said.
Weiss also thanked those in neighboring law enforcement agencies who have stepped up to assist the Bainbridge department in the coming days and weeks.
“We couldn’t get through this without them,” Weiss said.
City officials have said island residents may be seeing police cars from other agencies conducting patrols and answering emergency calls on Bainbridge.
Plans for a memorial are in flux.
“If it were normal times, we would be planning a big ceremony. But that’s going to be continued at a later date,” Weiss said.
Smith said Bainbridge is a community that would normally want to be together in a time like this.
The current reality prevents the healing that usually happens in close quarters, and community gatherings, as well.
“Those of us who were together this morning and throughout the day have said it’s a very hard day not to hug,” Smith said. “But I think the circumstances of Officer Enget’s passing are also an important reminder of exactly why we won’t be doing that right now.”
“It’s painful in both respects,” she said.
“This is a time where we have to be together in different ways,” Smith said.
Bainbridge police, as well as officers from law enforcement agencies across Kitsap, were waiting outside Harrison Medical Center at the time of Enget’s passing Friday morning.
A long caravan — with vehicles from the Washington State Patrol, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, Bremerton Police Department, Poulsbo PoliceDepartment, Port Orchard Police Department, Suquamish Police Department, the Bainbridge Island Fire Department, and other law enforcement agencies, some traveling as far as Lakewood — escorted Enget’s body to the Kitsap County Coroner’s Office in the early morning darkness; emergency lights flashing.
Approximately 10 police cars from Bainbridge were among the procession.