ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Hundreds of law enforcement officers stood in salute on Tuesday, watching as the flag-draped casket of one of their own — a fallen Albuquerque police veteran — was wheeled into a crowded auditorium.
The funeral for Officer Daniel Webster drew thousands of officers and others from across the Southwest as New Mexico’s largest city honored the service of a decorated, well-liked member of its police force.
Webster, who was 47 and a former Army Ranger, was gunned down outside a pharmacy at the edge of his command area on Oct. 21 and died eight days later, having suffered gunshot wounds to his upper body and jaw, police said.
“He served for peace in other countries,” said Gov. Susana Martinez, pausing at points while delivering emotional remarks and wiping away tears. “Then he came home and served honorably, as all of you here know, and he was killed by a very dangerous man.”
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Webster’s funeral marks the second time in two weeks that law enforcement gathered from across the country to mourn the loss of an officer. Last week, a funeral in New York honored Officer Randolph Holder, who was fatally shot after responding to reports of gunfire and a bicycle stolen at gunpoint.
In both cases, police say the shooting suspects’ criminal histories should have kept them locked away and off the streets.
At Webster’ memorial service, Mayor Richard Berry said the city’s heart is broken over Webster’s death, while the governor called him “Albuquerque’s superhero.” Both Police Chief Gorden Eden and Webster’s widow, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Deputy Michelle Carlino-Webster, noted how his death had brought together the community.
“For Dan, it was never about Dan. It was about what he could do to rescue you,” Eden said. “He rescued our city.”
Webster was shot while trying to arrest Davon Lymon, 34, during a traffic stop, police said. Lymon has been in and out of the court system for years and pleaded guilty more than a decade ago to voluntary manslaughter.
He was facing misdemeanor battery charges when Webster was shot. In May, police issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm. That case was dismissed in July, court records show.
Both Webster’s death and the recent road-rage shooting of a 4-year-old Albquerque girl have led to repeated, sharp criticisms of the state’s justice system from Berry, Eden and others. They contend lax sentencing guidelines and laws that bar judges from denying bail for high-risk defendants have resulted in having more violent criminals on the streets and a steadily increasing crime rate.
On Tuesday, however, there were no calls for reform. Instead, state and city leaders focused their remarks on Webster, praising his service and describing him as a hard-working, natural leader with a commitment to his country and community. In 2013, he was named the city’s officer of the year, in part because he always volunteered for high-priority calls.
“I never saw Dan eat,” said Officer Ed Taylor, who worked with Webster for four years. “I never saw him take a break.”
After the funeral, thousands of people lined the streets of Albuquerque as law enforcement officers guided the funeral procession while it moved from the Albuquerque Convention Center to Vista Verde Memorial Park in nearby Rio Rancho, where Webster was buried.
People along the procession route stood with their hands on their hearts as many held American flags. Others were dressed in blue as the sirens of hundreds of police vehicles filled the city.
Several people held signs of support saying they stood “behind the blue line.”