A U.S. Capitol police officer died of a heart attack while shoveling snow at his Delaware home Saturday following the blizzard that blasted the eastern U.S., the (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal reports.
Vernon J. Alston Jr., 44, a 20-year veteran, was a "fixture on the Capitol grounds," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday, announcing Alston's death.
"I am always grateful for the dedication and sacrifice of the Capitol Police force, and Officer Alston was an example of that," Reid said.
"The death of Officer Alston is truly a tragic loss for the Alston family and the United States Capitol Police, which in fact is one [and] the same,” Chief of Police Kim Dine said in a statement. "Officer Alston was someone who loved his job, and his loss leaves a huge void in the hearts of all of the men and women at the USCP."
His widow, Nicole Alston, told the Associated Press that he was helping clear his driveway and helping neighbors when he suddenly collapsed.
"I was about 2 feet away from him," she said. "He screamed my name. He collapsed, and he was gone."
Given the conditions left by the blizzard, an ambulance had to be towed to reach the family, but Nicole Alston said that she did not believe her husband could have been saved, no matter how prompt the response.
Nicole Alston described her fashion-loving husband as a "real people person" and "a very loving man."
"People looked to him for advice. He always tried to make people laugh. He was just a really genuine and good man. People loved him. I've received so many calls," she said.
The couple had a 3-year-old son together, while Alston had a teenage son and daughter from a previous marriage, along with his wife's teenage daughter from a previous marriage, the Journal notes.
Read more at USA Today.