RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Over and over again, speakers at the Rio Rancho Police Law Enforcement Memorial service named fallen officers and promised they would never be forgotten.
The service took place Thursday at Veterans Monument Park and honored law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty.
“They were tragically taken too fast and left a huge void in their families, blood and blue,” said Lt. Ray Alderete, acting as emcee.
The event particularly memorialized fallen Rio Rancho Police officers Gregg “Nigel” Benner, Anthony Haase and Germaine Casey, and included Sandoval County Sheriff’s deputies Joe Harris Sr. and Robert Baron, who all died in the line of duty. Speakers also recognized RRPD Chaplain Michael Sandoval and police dog Deuce, who died of other causes.
Forty-two officers in the United States have died in the line of duty so far this year, said guest speaker and state Cabinet Secretary for the Department of Public Safety Mark Shea. Well over 23,721 officers have died in the line of duty in the U.S. since records have been kept, 207 of those in New Mexico, he continued.
Shea said Benner, Haase and Casey didn’t report for duty just because it was their job.
“It was their calling; it was their passion,” he said.
He promised their families their sacrifice would never be forgotten, and then spoke as if to the three officers.
“Thank you, and I am honored to call each of you my brother and my hero,” Shea said.
Mayor Gregg Hull said police have a duty to protect the vulnerable, and Rio Rancho and the region have a history supporting for officers.
“To the family members of the fallen officers, please know that the community will never forget what they did for us,” Hull said.
Rio Rancho Police Chief Stewart Steele began his speech with John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
Steele has served in law enforcement for 35 years.
“It’s a sacrificial calling,” he said.
He added that officers know they may be asked to lay down their lives in the service of others, but willingly embrace the calling.
Steele asked the community to support law enforcement officers, and recalled the 42 line-of-duty deaths so far this year.
“We must do something different, as individuals, as a community, as a society,” he said.
He promised that officers would remember those who fell and their families, whose burdens he said couldn’t be removed.