- Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2015

RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) - Hundreds of law enforcement officers from throughout New Mexico and beyond gathered Thursday with community and family members to pay their last respects to a Rio Rancho police officer who was shot and killed during a May 25 traffic stop.

Police escorted the body of Officer Gregg Benner to the Santa Ana Star Center as people lined the streets to watch the procession. Some waved American flags, while others held their hands over their hearts.

Benner, 49, was a four-year member of the Rio Rancho Police Department and an Air Force veteran who is survived by his wife, six children and seven grandchildren.

Gov. Susana Martinez and Police Chief Michael Geier were among those to address the crowd during the emotional service.

The chief read a letter sent to Benner’s family by U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch. She encouraged his friends, family and fellow officers to follow his example and honor his memory.

“Whether he was patrolling his beat in New Mexico or serving a tour of duty in Kabul, Officer Benner acted bravely and honorably, determined to protect and serve,” Lynch wrote.

Martinez, a former prosecutor whose father and husband were law enforcement officers, said she knows of the dangers officers face. She said Benner was a hero on Earth and now an angel in heaven.

“In cities, rural areas and tribal communities across New Mexico, law enforcement officers stand on the front lines to fight against crime and violence,” the governor said. “When we run from danger and chaos, they run toward it.”

Martinez ordered flags to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset in honor of Benner.

During the eulogy, friends talked about Benner’s first dirt bike, his time in the military, and his dream of becoming a police officer.

Andrew Romero has been charged with murder and other counts in the attack and is being held with bail set at $5 million. Romero, a convicted felon, was wanted at the time of the shooting on an outstanding warrant for probation violations.

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This story has been corrected to show that the name of the officer is Gregg Benner, not Greg Benner.

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