A retired Connecticut State Police trooper and current deputy chief of the East Brooklyn Fire Department has died of COVID-19.
Patrick Dragon, 50, died Saturday night at Hartford Hospital. Dragon, born and raised in Brooklyn, Conn., was a state trooper for 20 years. He was among the first to respond to the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
"He was the bravest person I know," said Michele Hearn, Dragon's sister. "He was larger than life."
According to family, Dragon tested positive for the virus around Dec. 12. They said that he was feeling well and, after quarantining for the required time, went back to work. However, his condition quickly worsened. Last Sunday, he was transported to the hospital.
Dragon's brother, Jason, said that he was put on a ventilator and heart-lung bypass. After six days in the hospital, Patrick Dragon died Saturday, Jan. 2. His parents, who were recovering from COVID, were able to be with him in person. His siblings said their goodbyes over a video call.
“We were all able to tell Patrick how much we loved him. How proud we are of him," said Michele.
Dragon's family described him as a beloved son, brother and a selfless community member. He spent most of his life in public service.
At the age of 16, Patrick Dragon followed in his dad's footsteps and became a member of the East Brooklyn Fire Department. Dragon's dad was once the deputy chief of the department, a role that Dragon most recently held himself. He was set to be the next chief.
“I think it was in him. He liked to help the public. He loved helping the community, being in the community and just doing things for people and helping them out," said James Warren, chief of the East Brooklyn Fire Department. "He was a big part of East Brooklyn and there is going to be a hole in it for quite a while.”
Dragon entered the State Police Training Academy in 1998. Trooper First Class Dragon worked as a patrol trooper in Troop D in Danielson, a resident trooper in Sterling, a detective in the Eastern District Major Crime Squad and as a detective in the Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit, according to state police.
Dragon's time as a first responder was not an easy one. He responded to many tragedies and was diagnosed with PTSD. However, Dragon's siblings told NBC Connecticut he overcame his own struggles and was able to help others.
“He received treatment for it and he turned that all into helping others, once again,” said Jason Dragon, Patrick's brother.
Dragon used his own experiences to help other police officers dealing with trauma, traveling to speak with them and share his story.
“I have had messages from people he worked with who said, 'he helped save me. He helped turn my life around,'" said Michele Hearn, Dragon's sister.
Dragon's family said that it was no mistake that he spent his life helping others.
“These were all dreams of his," said Michele. "This is exactly what he wanted to do in life and he did it.”
After retiring from Connecticut State Police, Dragon became a fulltime dispatcher with the Foster Police Department in Rhode Island.
"The Foster Police Department has lost one of its own," Foster Police Chief David J. Breit wrote in a statement. "There are not enough words to describe the kind of person that Patrick was."
The family hopes people will learn from how Dragon lived his life.
"Helping others. That is all Patrick ever wanted to do," said Jason.
They also hope people pay attention to how he died. Dragon's family said he was healthy and took all precautions against COVID. They are urging others to do the same.
“If you really want to be brave, protect people. Protect the ones around you," said Michele, Patrick's sister.
Due to COVID-19, the family will wait to host a memorial until spring of 2021.
“We just don’t want Pat to be another number in that daily tally of the US death count. He can’t just be another digit," said TJ Hearn, Dragon's brother-in-law. "He has been so much more.”