Sergeant Tom Fonte died as the result of contracting HIV following several blood transfusions that were required after a line of duty injury.
On September 25th, 1978, Sergeant Fonte and his partner were on patrol when they observed a large amount of smoke coming from a manufacturing facility at 7702 Maie Avenue. When they arrived on scene they observed numerous large drums of paint igniting and blocking the exit from the facility. The two deputies were able to clear a path, which allowed approximately 40 employees to escape.
Both deputies then entered the facility twice and carried an unconscious employees out both times, saving their lives. Both deputies suffered singed hair and smoke inhalation during the rescue.
Sergeant Fonte required numerous surgeries as the result of the toxic smoke that he inhaled. One of the transfusions he received during a surgery contained blood tainted with HIV. His conditioned deteriorated over the coming years and he died as a result on October 2nd, 1990.
Sergeant Fonte was a U.S. Air Force veteran. He was survived by his wife and two children.