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Hundreds gather to say goodbye to former Las Cruces officer

LAS CRUCES — Hundreds of mourners lined Las Cruces streets Saturday morning to witness J.R. Stewart’s last ride.

J.R. Stewart, retired police officer from the Las Cruces Police Department. (Photo courtesy of the Las Cruces Police Department)

The retired Las Cruces Police officer was riding his motorcycle Monday when a stolen vehicle driven by a fugitive fleeing law enforcement on Interstate 25 went off the interstate, through a fence and collided with Stewart on Las Alturas Drive, a frontage road. Stewart, 61, was killed in the crash.

Dozens of officials from area law enforcement agencies, first responders and the motorcycle community gathered Saturday to take part in a funeral procession from Baca’s Funeral Home to St. Genevieve’s Catholic Church, where services were held before Stewart’s body was laid to rest at St. Joseph’s Cemetery.

The procession stopped in front of the Las Cruces Police Department headquarters on Picacho Avenue. Members of the Las Cruces police and fire departments lined one side of the street while mourners — some carrying American and Thin Blue Line flags — lined the other side. A motorcycle carried a hearse on its sidecar. The motorcycle revved its engine in front of the police department — one last call from Officer 141.

A second ceremony to honor the life of Stewart was held in Puerto Rico, where six LCPD officers are helping the country after it was hit by a Category 5 Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20.

The ceremony was held in conjunction with officers from the Arlington, Virginia, police department, who also lost a retired officer this week.

Stewart was also honored over the police scanner. At 11:59 a.m., the Mesilla Valley Regional Dispatch Authority cleared dispatch channel 1 in order to dedicate a few moments to Stewart and thank him for his 35 years of dedicated service.

“J.R. we love you. Rest now, and we will take it from here.”