Nov. 15—Only have a minute? Listen instead
SAN BENITO — A month after tragedy shocked this quiet town, police officers are planning to join residents in a ceremony marking the death of the city’s first lawman killed in the line of duty.
On Thursday, officers are holding a candlelight vigil along with a silent one-mile walk at 6:30 p.m. at Heavin Memorial Park in honor of Lt. Milton Resendez, 54, a 27-year department veteran killed after suspects amid a fierce pursuit shot him to death on Oct. 18.
“We wanted to do something together to honor him,” Police Chief Mario Perea said in an interview. “It’s to show we still remember him — remembering his life.”
The ceremony marks a month since suspects fired into Resendez’s truck while on patrol.
“We’re still grieving,” Perea said. “Its been rough. The officers are leaning on each other. We check on them to see how they’re doing. They do think about it. But they’re still responding to calls and serving the community.”
For days, Lt. Lupi Andrade has been helping Melissa Resendez, Resendez’s widow, arrange the vigil.
As officers join residents gathered at the park’s amphitheater, the duo Natalia and Gregorio Montes are set to play songs in Resendez’s honor.
“I’m calling it a mile of silence,” Andrade said. “We’ll be holding our candles, walking behind Melissa.”
Inside the 50-member police department, the pain of losing the fun-loving, high-ranking police official has helped bond the officers.
“We’re more tightly bonded,” Andrade said. “I feel we see each other as group therapy. Every day and every moment, something reminds us of him. It’s just created a bond among all the co-workers. We’re still healing. It’s going to take time to heal. At least we have each other to remember the good times — remembering the way he was.”
Across this city of 25,000, many residents remain stunned over the level of violence that led to Resendez’s death.
“We want to pay our respects for him for everything he’s done for the city,” Mayor Rick Guerra said, referring to the ceremony the city’s police officers are arranging.
“There’s a bond,” he said. “They’re still in disbelief — sadness. Hopefully, day by day, there’s a little bit of closure — and for his family. But I don’t think there’s ever going to be closure for the whole city.”
The Texas Rangers have been investigating Resendez’s death.
At about 10:58 p.m. Oct. 18 in San Benito, Resendez was patrolling the area of Business 77 and Sam Houston Boulevard when one of the suspects fired two rounds into his truck.
One round pierced the truck’s door, the bullet entering beneath Resendez’s bulletproof vest, Perea said.
After the suspects exchanged gunfire amid an hours-long pursuit from a South Padre Island beach to Brownsville, authorities arrested Rogelio Martinez, 18, of Brownsville, and Rodrigo Axel Espinoza Valdez, 23, a Mexican national.
An affidavit states the suspects were armed with a rifle and pistol.
A judge charged the men with capital murder of a police officer, setting bonds as high as $2 million.