MARION, Ark. – – The community in Marion, Arkansas is on edge as one of its leaders fights for his life. Police Chief Gary Kelley is in the hospital after contracting COVID-19. His son Daniel spoke with WREG outside the police department Monday while several officers stood behind him for support.
“I mean, it’s a difficult situation,” Daniel Kelley said.
Chief Kelley tested positive for the virus last Wednesday and went to the hospital Friday when his symptoms got worse.
“He’s had difficulty with breathing,” Daniel Kelley said, “A COVID pneumonia is what they’re calling it.”
Serious enough for the 63-year-old to be placed on a ventilator. Crittenden County Sheriff Mike Allen says Marion’s assistant chief and at least two other officers have also tested positive for the virus. They’re currently quarantining with no worse than mild symptoms but their absence has left a small department of only 31 officers slightly short-staffed. Fortunately, Sheriff Allen says his department can help answer calls if more officers have to quarantine.
“At this time, there’s no real public safety issue,” Sheriff Allen said.
Allen has been friends with Chief Kelley for decades and says he met him before Kelley joined the police department nearly 40 years ago. He’s been chief for the last 13 years.
“He’s kind of been the backbone of the department for a long, long, long time,” Sheriff Allen said, “I don’t think there’s anybody in the Marion community that doesn’t know him.”
Daniel Kelley says support for his dad and his family has been pouring in.
“Every text message, phone call, it makes us feel good because we’re not alone and we’re all fighting it together,” Daniel Kelley said.
Friends and family are confident Chief Kelley will win the fight.
“He never backed away from anything,” Daniel Kelley said.
Daniel Kelley says his mom also tested positive for COVID-19 but, thankfully, she’s doing fine.
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