Hundreds of police officers from across the United States gathered at Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on Thursday to pay respects to slain officer Benjamin J. Deen, who was gunned down in the line of duty during a routine traffic stop over the weekend. The New York Yankees also reportedly arranged flowers for the service.
A sea of blue filled the pews in the packed church as several hundred law enforcement officers, some from as far away New York City, attended the hour-long service for Deen, 34. The NY Yankees also showed their support by asking a Bronx florist to arrange flowers for the funeral through University Flowers in Hattiesburg.
"Basically, they contacted a florist in the Bronx and they wired it to us," said Amy Garner, of University Flowers, in a WHLT 22 report. "It was a really big honor."
Deen, a married father of two, was a K-9 officer who was named "officer of the year" in 2012. On Thursday, he was remembered by loved ones as a "man of honor" who took pride in protecting his community.
"If you ever spent any time with BJ, you would be a better person for it," a fellow police officer said while delivering the eulogy. "You always felt better after talking to [him] because you knew that he cared about you. He was not only an inspiration to the officers that he worked with, he was an inspiration to me … he was a man of character, dedicated and compassionate. He was a man of honor. He made me want to become a better cop because he has such strong work ethic and passion for the job."
"This means so much to this family," Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree said of the outpouring of support before the service began. "It shows law enforcement officers are loved by those they serve and protect. It is a shame we can't do this before these tragic events happen."
Deen is one of two Hattiesburg police officers killed in the line of duty on Saturday night during a traffic stop. The second is Liquori Tate, 24, and four suspects have since been arrested and charged.
A fifth suspect, Abram Wade "Pete" Franklin, 29, was reportedly arrested on Wednesday and charged with obstruction in the case, Mississippi Bureau of Investigation spokesman Warren Strain said.
The four suspects in the deadly shooting include Joanie Calloway, 22, who is charged with two counts of capital murder and Marvin Banks, 29, who also faces two counts of capital murder along with charges of grand theft auto and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Banks' brother, Curtis Banks, 26, is charged with two counts of accessory after the fact of capital murder and Cornelius Clark, 28, is charged with obstruction of justice.
All four made court appearances at the Forest County Justice Court on Monday and bond was set at $75,000 for Calloway and $75,000 for Clark. The Banks brothers were reportedly denied bond due to prior convictions.
Investigators are still trying to determine what exactly transpired in the moments leading up to the shooting deaths of Deen and Tate, who are the first Hattiesburg police officers to die in the line of duty in more than 30 years, CNN reported.
Vigils and prayer services were held throughout the week to honor both of the slain officers.
A funeral will be held Saturday, May 16, for Officer Tate at West Point Baptist Church.