Several figures in the community came out to support the Rio Rancho Police Department in remembering three fallen officers May 18.
“I know these ceremonies are not easy as they bring back emotions and painful memories. This place holds a lot of significance for me alongside a lot of the officers that are still here today. I responded to this location when one of our officers fell right here on the street behind me. I only mention this to say that we, as law enforcement, also share very painful memories for every one of the officers that we lost throughout the state of New Mexico,” said Jason Bowie, cabinet secretary of New Mexico Department of Public Safety.
Bowie retired as deputy chief to the Rio Rancho Police Department in 2021.
The officer Bowie was referring to was Officer Greg Benner, who was shot down on Pinetree Road in 2015. Benner was one of the three officers being honored and remembered at the ceremony.
Officer Anthony Haase, who was killed in a car accident near Idalia Road and NM 528 in 2014, and Officer Jermaine Casey, who died due to injuries from a motorcycle accident that occurred while he was escorting then-President George W. Bush in 2007, were also remembered.
Deputy Mayor Jeremy Lenentine acknowledged the admiration that officers get from the general public.
“Sometimes you are nameless and faceless heroes who show up to protect and serve, then you move back into the shadows of duty and service. That really is a shame, because I wish that every citizen of our city and local cities could get to know you in the way I have,” he said.
Mayor Gregg Hull, who couldn’t be at the ceremony because he was swearing in new cadets, was represented by Lenentine.
Police Chief Stewart Steele remembered his own experience of losing a fellow officer.
“In 2001, I was involved in an officer-involved shooting, along with my cousin Rob, who was a canine officer at the time with his dog Zeus,” Steele said.
Steele recalled the incident where his cousin was shot but survived. Unfortunately, he said, Zeus did not make it.
“I don’t recall my life flashing before my eyes. I do recall calling home. As soon as I had backup on scene and Rob was on his way to the hospital, I called home. Why? Because I wanted my wife to know I was OK,” he said.
Steele added that being a police officer often takes priority over officers’ families. “They are often on the back-burner, as my wife says,” he added.
“In the middle of my work catastrophe, I called home. In our most fearful moments, it is our families that we want. Just like I did when I called my wife while on scene,” he said.
Steele added that those who made the “ultimate sacrifice” while serving and protecting will not be forgotten.
The city of Rio Rancho will host a remembrance ceremony for Memorial Day on May 29.