Anti-vaccine Manhattan court officer lieutenant dies of COVID-19
NEW YORK — A Manhattan court officer lieutenant who was ardently opposed to taking the coronavirus vaccine has died of COVID-19, the New York Daily News has learned.
Lt. Stephen Shyti, 63, died around 5:45 p.m. Tuesday after spending more than two weeks on a ventilator, officials said.
Multiple sources said the veteran court lieutenant and father of two was outspoken in his opposition to taking the vaccine and did not wear a mask at work. He was responsible for enforcing mask-wearing and other safety measures at the sprawling lower Manhattan courthouse.
Dennis Quirk, the court officers’ union president, said Shyti’s beliefs about the vaccine were the result of work at ground zero in the aftermath of 9/11. Shyti suffered breathing problems from exposure to the toxic rubble of the World Trade Center.
“He’s one of the people that was working down at the site of 9/11 and received some ailments from that,” said Quirk.
“He had total mistrust in the government and wouldn’t get the vaccine.”
A spokesman for the Office of Court Administration said Shyti was “a calm and reassuring presence at Manhattan criminal court,” where he worked for 26 years.
“He was well-liked by all members of his command and was known for his fairness and care for his co-workers. He had an encyclopedic knowledge and grasp of all aspects of criminal court operations and case processing and was a resource for younger officers throughout his career,” said the spokesman, Lucian Chalfen.
The CDC recommends everyone 12 and older receive a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. An FDA review of about 22,000 people who received the vaccine and 22,000 people who received a placebo found that Pfizer’s shots were 91% effective at preventing COVID-19.
The vaccines have proven to be highly effective at saving lives and preventing hospitalizations, particularly for those with underlying conditions, such as respiratory problems.
Earlier this month, the state’s chief administrative judge, Lawrence Marks, said all state court employees must get vaccinated by Sept. 27.
Marks said the policy move is for “those who work in our courthouses, who are required to conduct business in our courthouses and who are compelled to be in our courthouses.”
Out of the court system’s 15,600 employees, approximately 60% — or 9,400 staffers — are vaccinated, according to public data.
Only about 39% of the state’s court officers are vaccinated, while about 80% of New York’s judges are inoculated against COVID-19.
The death comes amid an unusually nasty fight between the court officers’ union and the state’s chief judge over a vaccine mandate.
A former court officer colleague of Shyti’s had only good words to say about his former boss.
“Steve was a great co-worker and a great guy all around. He was a great sergeant when I worked for him, and was always there to put a hand on your shoulder, an ear to listen or a good stern word to straighten a person out,” said Michael Aranda.
Tributes poured in online for the longtime court officer.
“He was such a kind soul, may he Rest In Peace. Praying for comfort and strength for all his loved ones,” wrote Loreily Rodriguez-Pardo.
Shytis’ wife declined to comment through a state court officers’ spokesman.
A funeral is scheduled for Sept. 16.