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'This is a preventable tragedy': Vaccinations urged at funeral for St. Pete officer who died of COVID-related complications

"Mike wished he had been vaccinated when the virus became too much to bear and we cried together and prayed," his widow said.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It was an emotional day for the family, friends and colleagues of fallen St. Pete PD Officer Michael Weiskopf as they gathered to remember his life and service.

The 52-year-old died on Aug. 27, from COVID-related complications after contracting the virus. Weiskopf's widow, Karen, says the 18-year veteran of the department was not vaccinated at the time that he fell ill.

That "risky decision," she said, led her to watch the strong and healthy man she loved suffer through COVID-19 for 28 days. 

"Mike wished he had been vaccinated when the virus became too much to bear and we cried together and prayed," Karen said.

Weiskopf's wife of 19 years described the loss of her soulmate as a heartache that will never go away until they are together again.

"Mike, the moment that you left me my heart split in two. One side is filled with our memories together. The other side died with you," she said.

Moving forward, Karen added that she will continue to honor Weiskopf's legacy through his courage, humor, dreams and wisdom and by accepting that while she can't control what happens in life, she can control how she "handles the unexpected."

Friends and fellow officers also honored Weiskopf during the service with poems, stories and touching tributes about the man who loved his job and "always had a smile no matter what."

The Rabbi leading the funeral service also pushed for vaccinations among those who were in attendance. At Weiskopf's widow's request, a vaccine station was set up outside to allow people to pay their respects to the fallen officer in a unique way — by getting a COVID-19 shot. 

The shots were administered by the health department in Pinellas County, and by the end of the service 10 people had been vaccinated.

"Every day you put on your badge, for many of you, you put on a gun. You wouldn't walk around without ammunition for that weapon. You put on a vest and you wouldn't go into a dangerous situation without wearing a vest. Get your vaccine. That's your vest," the Rabbi stressed.

He also pushed for being "brutally honest" with those mourning the loss of Officer Weiskopf, adding that the 52-year-old's death was a "preventable tragedy."

"One crappy day, if you happen to get side effects from the vaccine, is a hell of a lot better -- than losing your life. Your children, your parents, your commanding officers, your colleagues would all rather cover you for one day than sit here for another funeral," he said in closing.

Following the funeral service, there was a Presentation of Colors, 21-Gun Salute, Taps, Riderless Horse detail, flag presentation and a ceremonial last call.