Coronavirus News: NYPD detective who battled 9/11-related cancer dies of COVID-19

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- A detective who battled 9/11-related cancer has died from complications related to the coronavirus.

Detective Robert Cardona was a 19-year veteran of the department.

Everyone who knew Cardona was well aware that his family came first.

"He was such a gentle person and humble and when I needed him, I'd call him and he came no matter what time, if my daughters were in a problem, he came for me," said Myrna Santiago, Cardona's aunt.

Cardona was a detective at the 13th Precinct in Gramercy Park. He died Wednesday afternoon from complications from COVID-19.

He's the 27th member of the NYPD to lose their battle with this virus and the fifth detective.

"I'm doing OK, I have my moments, right now I'm trying to be brave and talk to you right now because if not, I'd be crying, I'm trying to stay strong," Santiago said.

She now also has to stay strong for her nephew's 8-year-old son, Robert Jr.

Cardona joined the NYPD in July of 2001, and was the first in his family to be a cop. He loved it, even when things got rough on the job.

"There were days when someone would make him mad, but he got over it, he used to always say get over it, that was his favorite line, get over it," Santiago said.

Something Cardona couldn't shake was cancer. He had leukemia, got treatment, and was in remission for eight years. But recently, it came back and then in mid-March he told his aunt he felt like he had the flu.

"He tells me, 'I still felt crappy, if I don't feel like this, I'm going to go the ER,'" she said.

He did end up going to the hospital on March 20, but he never recovered.

Santiago is holding on to the last conversation she had with her Cardona before he was put on a ventilator.

"I remember telling him that he needs to get better, that I loved him and that was basically it," she said.

The Detectives' Endowment Association called Cardona a "caring and courageous Detective."

The NYPD has instructed all personnel to wear authorized black mourning bands across their shields for the duration of the pandemic.

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