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ST. FLORIAN, Ala. — Inside the St. Florian Police Department sits an empty desk where Sgt. Walter Johnson once worked.

The police department revealed Thursday that Johnson died after battling COVID-19.

Those who knew Johnson said he was an exceptional member of the community.

“He was a great man,” St. Florian Mayor Matthew Connolly said. “He was well respected in the community, he was well loved in the community, and he treated everybody out here with respect.”

Johnson was a retired state trooper. He had served in the United States National Guard and also served as a pastor.

“He brought a lot of experience to our police department,” Mayor Connolly said. “He was a mentor to our police officers; he was just a great, godly man.”

The flag at the St. Florian Town Hall and Police Department was lowered to half-staff in honor of Sgt. Johnson.

“He was just a great guy and a great man,” Officer Jonathan Terry said. Terry had known Johnson for years and said the loss isn’t being taken lightly.

“We saw each other every day,” Terry said. “It’s still a shock; we’re all still trying to understand what happened.” “Most of us just talked to him here a few days ago.”

Officer Terry said his heart breaks for Johnson’s family.

“I can’t understand the loss they’re feeling right now,” Terry said. “There’s really no words to say except we’re definitely praying for them. We hope God’s with them, and they can make it through this tough time.”

Being a police officer is a job that doesn’t stop, and Terry said the best thing the officers can do moving forward is to go to work each day and follow Johnson’s example by treating everyone with respect.

A tribute event is scheduled for Saturday, December 19 at 6:30 p.m. at McFarland Park to celebrate Sgt. Walter Johnson’s life.