Sonoma County Sheriff's Office correctional lieutenant dies after 5-week COVID battle

A Sonoma County Sheriff's lieutenant has died after a five-week battle with COVID-19.

Bobby Travelstead, 40, worked his way up from jail guard to watch commander over a 14-year career.

The Sheriff's Department posted a tribute to Travelstead Thursday, describing his "personality and sincerity" that made him a "well-liked co-worker and respected leader."

"We were always hopeful he would pull through," said Assistant Sonoma County Sheriff Eddie Engram, who supervises corrections.

"I think it is a cautionary tale as to the dangers of COVID-19."

Due to patient privacy, Engram cannot discuss Travelstead's vaccination status.

Later this month, the sheriff's department will require all staff be vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID testing.

The jail is a particularly risky environment, with about 30 to 40 bookings daily.

"We're constantly having people test positive for COVID as they come through the booking process," said Engram, "and we put them in a isolation protocol rather than the general population."

But the jail, like most, has had outbreaks and Travelstead became infected shortly after the last one.

He was hospitalized on July 31.

His passing is considered a "line of duty" death.

"He was a great guy who got along with everyone," said Engram, "and everyone is pretty much heartbroken over this."

Travelstead is Sonoma County's second law enforcement death of the pandemic.

In March of 2020, Santa Rosa Police Detective Marylou Armer died at 44, California's first sworn officer to succumb to COVID-19.

Travelstead, prior to law enforcement, was a decorated U.S. Navy veteran.

He served from 2001-2006 as a Field Medical Corpsman with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq.

"He was always there, anytime anyone needed anything he was there," said Travelstead's cousin Megan Feazel.

She and most of Travelstead's relatives live in southern Illinois, where he grew up.

He was the eldest among his cousins, she says, and admired by everyone in the family.

"We all looked up to Bobby and leaned on Bobby," said Feazel.

"He was always funny, he was always laughing, and no drama, just an all-around good guy," said Feazel.

And Travelstead was a devoted dad to two teenage daughters, supporting their activities and sports, sometimes as a coach.

"I did actually text him the day he went on the ventilator," said Faezel, "and I said 'I love you' and he texted back 'I love you too' and that's the last I heard from him."

Thursday, Governor Newsom ordered Capitol flags flown at half-staff in honor of Lieutenant Travelstead.

Flags at Sonoma County Sheriff's facilities are already lowered.

"The loss of Bobby has left a hole in our hearts here at the agency and everyone here misses him dearly," said Engram.

The Main Detention Facility in Santa Rosa has about 300 staff and 700 inmates.

Currently, it has one COVID-positive staff member and five others in isolation based on close contact.

There are 3 infected inmates, and 15 others segregated, including those who refused to be tested on entry to the jail.