Every time Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Van Eldredge drives past a white cross in Tijeras, he remembers his boyhood friend Jimmy McGrane, who was a sheriff’s deputy when he was killed in 2006.
“I think of what a great police officer, and a great friend, he was to me,” Eldredge said after completing the first official New Mexico Law Enforcement Memorial Ride.
More than 150 bicyclists rode 100 kilometers, or 64 miles, on Saturday to honor the memories of slain police officers in New Mexico.
Accompanied by a police motorcycle escort, the road trip of riders traveled a challenging six-hour route that began in Downtown Albuquerque, went east to Tijeras Canyon, then north on N.M. 14 – the Turquoise Trail – before ending at the State Police Law Enforcement Academy in Santa Fe. They were given a complimentary ride home on the Rail Runner commuter train.
Some riders took a shorter 30-kilometer ride that ended at the James McGrane East Area Command Center, near a white cross where McGrane was shot and killed during a traffic stop.
“Jimmy and I grew up together just three houses away from each other,” said Eldredge, who supervises the sheriff’s department bicycle unit.
“Jimmy was an avid fitness guy, too,” he said. “He loved to run, he loved to stay in shape, and if he was still here, this is the type of event he would have liked.”
Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz and an APD Honor Guard were among a contingent that saw the memorial riders begin their trek shortly after 7 a.m.
Just after 2 p.m., closing ceremonies took place in front of a gray rock memorial wall inscribed with the names of New Mexico’s fallen officers at the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy.
With United States and New Mexico flags at half staff and snapping furiously in the wind, Albuquerque Police Chaplain Commander Briane Dennison thanked the bike riders and said, “We are here to make sure that we never forget our fallen officers and their families.”
The bike riders rolled past memorials for the fallen officers along the route, including one for Officer Phil Chacon, who died in 1980 on Central Avenue near Wyoming Boulevard in Albuquerque.
“I’m here to remember all the slain officers,” retired APD officer Rod Sandoval said, naming, in particular, Chacon, McGrane, and APD officers Michael King and Richard Smith Jr., who died in the line of duty in 2005.
“They were all fantastic officers and just really good people,” he said.