EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Troy Adkins was the strongest man Brandon Davis has ever known.
The two lifelong friends had known each other since the 4th grade, and they would go on to graduate together from Hanks High School in 1991.
Adkins joined the Navy after high school, and when he returned to El Paso, he joined the El Paso Fire Department. And up until New Year’s Eve, Adkins was a U.S. Customs and Border Protection K-9 Officer.
He died of coronavirus-related complications after spending two weeks in the hospital, Davis told Border Report via phone.
“He was a beast,” Davis said. “The strongest man I knew.”
And that’s why news of Adkins’ death came as such a surprise to Davis. Since high school, Adkins was an avid fitness enthusiast and was a power lifter.
Davis said he knew Adkins was in the hospital, but he never thought COVID-19 would ultimately claim his life.
Despite his size, Davis says Adkins was kind and caring.
“He was gold,” Davis said. “Everyone that knew him would tell you he’s a good dude. He would give you the shirt off his back.
CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan tweeted about Adkins’s death last week, offering condolences to his family.
“We mourn the loss of CBP Canine Enforcement Officer Troy A. Adkins,” Morgan tweeted. “Officer Adkins began his career with @CBP in 2007, and most recently worked at the Port of El Paso, Texas. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues. He will never be forgotten.”
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, 21 U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees have died from COVID-19, Morgan said. A CBP spokesman in El Paso could not confirm whether Adkins’ death was related to the coronavirus, and it’s unclear if he is included in those figures.
CBP referred Border Report to a CBP statement that read, “The circumstances of his passing were reviewed by an executive panel and the CBP Commissioner who agreed that his death occurred in the line of duty,” the statement said.
As of Jan. 10, 2020, CBP has had 5,711 employees have tested positive for the virus, with 2,123 of those cases in Texas, according to the CBP website.
“As you know, every single day out there is risking their lives. We’ve lost 21 employees directly due to COVID and the majority of those have been in the line of duty,” Morgan said. “So it is not only important, not only for the health and safety of our workforce to get them vaccines, but for all those that they encounter. Our employees live in every city, town, and state out there so it’s important for a multitude of reasons.”
Morgan says CBP employees who are health care and medical professionals have already received the vaccine. However, it’s up to each community to decide whether or not local law enforcement will be included in the next phase of vaccinations.
As for when the vaccine will be made available to migrants, Morgan says, “we’re not there yet’.”
“I mean, our first concern is the American people and of course CBP workforce being part of that,” Morgan said. “Right now, our main concern is not figuring out how we’re going to give migrants vaccines when we don’t even have them rolled out to our own citizens and to our own workforce.”
KTSM 9 News reached out to both the City of El Paso and the Texas Division of Emergency management about when CBP would be included in vaccinations.
A spokeswoman for the City of El Paso says it is the city’s understanding that the federal government is responsible for vaccinating CBP, adding adds that any eligible person can register to receive the vaccine. Those currently eligible include people over the age of 65 or anyone at least 16 years old with a chronic condition.
“Any resident can preregister to receive a vaccine with the City of El Paso if they are eligible under the Phase 1B category,” said Laura Cruz-Acosta, a spokeswoman for the City of El Paso.
For further clarification, KTSM 9 News also reached out to the TDEM.
“Vaccine providers in Texas should be following the Texas Department of State Health Services’ guidelines for vaccinations. In accordance with those guidelines, groups 1A and 1B are currently eligible for vaccination in Texas,” said Seth Christensen, a spokesman for TDEM.
In a statement to Border Report, a CBP spokesman said, “We continue to work with our partners but no timetable has been set.”
CBP said Adkins began his career with CBP on March 5, 2007. Before joining CBP, he worked as a fire suppression technician from 1997 to 2007 at the El Paso Fire Department Station 6. He also served honorably in the U.S. Navy from 1991 to 1995.
“Friends and coworkers described Officer Adkins as a man who loved his family, his country and his dog “Blu,” a statement read. “He was passionate about his hobbies, loved fast cars, four-wheeling, the outdoors and Harley Davidson motorcycles. He was known as a great friend, loyal, hardworking and caring. He is survived by his wife, his son, three step-children and two grandchildren.”