RIO RANCHO, N.M. (KRQE) – Hundreds of people are paying their respects to fallen Rio Rancho Police officer Gregg Nigel Benner the day before he will be honored in a memorial service.
Community members gathered at the Daniels Family Mortuary in southern Rio Rancho Wednesday afternoon for a public visitation for Officer Benner.
In the initial hours of the service, families, school principals and former police officers were among the crowd honoring Benner. One former Rio Rancho Police Officer told KRQE News 13 that he is touched by the support.
“It’s a brother officer, it’s very surreal. We should never have to see a brother officer that has fallen in the line of duty,” said Paul Caputo, a former Rio Rancho Police officer.
Officer Gregg Benner was shot to death on Memorial Day near the Esther Bone Memorial Library near Pinetree and Southern. He was 49-years old. Benner was a four year police officer and 22-year Air Force veteran.
“Every chance I get just to go by and say God be with you brother and all that, so I came by today,” said another man from Rio Rancho who came by Wednesday’s visitation.
Many in the community say they’re thankful for Officer Benner’s service, even though they didn’t know him personally.
Over the last week, community members have left mounds of flowers at his memorial at the scene of his death.
At the visitation Wednesday, many brought stuffed animals per the family’s request. Officer Benner used to hand out stuffed animals to kids who he met on the job.
Laura Moore brought one of those animals from her school today. She’s a principal from Colinas del Norte Elementary in Rio Rancho. Moore says she remembers officer Benner’s kindness at her school.
“The police support us so much here, they’re always at the schools when we need them, they’re just… They’re an important part of this community and it just hurts a lot to see someone leave like this fine man did,” said Moore.
“He was an old school cop, he care about the community, he loved everybody he served, he obviously gave it everything that he had,” said Caputo.
The visitation lasted until 7 p.m. Wednesday.