POWAY, Calif. (KGTV) - Loved ones mourning the COVID-19 death of a sheriff’s deputy and retired CHP officer.
Matt Gibbs first felt sick in late July.
“He had a fever early on, and coughing,” said Gibbs’ sister-in-law LaDonna Palega.
Palega says Gibbs, a Poway resident, tested positive for COVID-19 and about a week later, he was admitted into the hospital with trouble breathing.
A day later, he was placed on a ventilator.
“It was a roller coaster the entire time that he was in there,” said Palega.
After nearly three weeks, Gibbs, a husband and father of four, passed away at the age of 55.
“Our family's devastated,” said a tearful Palega.
Palega calls Gibbs a loving family man who was a passionate about law enforcement.
“Hilarious. He was a big kid, a child at heart, dedicated to his family, and hard working,” said Palega.
Gibbs was a CHP officer for three decades before retiring in 2017.
His humor shined in 1994, when Tonight Show Host Jay Leno featured Gibbs in a ride-along segment.
In 2018, Gibbs became a deputy with the sheriff's department and most recently was working at the Vista courthouse. He loved to serve.
“I think his favorite thing about the job was being able to interact with people and help people,” said Palega.
Palega says during the pandemic, Gibbs has been diligent about wearing masks.
She says he was not vaccinated, because he believed he had contracted COVID-19 earlier in the year, although he hadn't been tested. Gibbs had no underlying conditions.
“I believe he intended to get the vaccine. He was waiting to see if it was going to get FDA approved. He was not in a rush, because in his mind, he had it,” said Palega.
Palega is urging others to continue treating the pandemic seriously, from masks to vaccines.
“I would encourage people to look at all the information out there, and make best decision for you and your family,” said Palega.
A Gofundme campaign has been set up to help the family with expenses.