GLOUCESTER TOWNSHIP — Police knocked down a social media rumor that one of its officers had died after becoming infected by COVID-19.

Gloucester Township police chief David Harkins on the department's Facebook page wrote that Patrolman Walsh is alive and well and called the post reporting his death as "despicable." The post even included a picture of Walsh, according to Harkins.

"This posting is completely false. No Gloucester Township Police Officer has passed away from COVID-19. Ptl. Walsh is doing just fine. This appears to be a sick prank against the Gloucester Township community and the Gloucester Township Police Department. The post was reported to the administrator and appears to be removed," Harkins wrote.

The chief said that the "coward post" is not a reflection of most residents of the township.

"This deadly virus has claimed the lives of fellow police officers in Newark, New York City, Chicago, Detroit, along with 846 people in New Jersey, including 10 so far in Camden County. The threat to our Gloucester Township Police Officers is real," Harkins said.

"How discouraging that at a time we should be seeing the very best in people we are reminded that some among us don't live with the best of intentions in their lives. At a time we need encouragement and good news their actions are wholly disappointing," Pat Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policeman's Benevolent Association told New Jersey 101.5.

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The first New Jersey police officer to die from COVID-19 was Newark special officer Tolbert A. Furr, 59, a city resident, as announced April 2 by Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose.

New Jersey's first firefighter to lose his life to the virus was confirmed March 31 as Israel Tolentino, 33, of Passaic.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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