ELLENSBURG — More than a thousand people, including hundreds of law enforcement officers, gathered at a memorial service Thursday for a sheriff’s deputy killed last week by a road-rage suspect living in the country illegally after holding a temporary work visa.
Uniformed officers lined a street and saluted as a white hearse brought the flag-draped casket of Kittitas County Deputy Ryan Thompson to Central Washington University. Bagpipers, drummers and an honor guard of uniformed officers met the casket.
Thompson, 42, a graduate of the university, died in a gun battle March 19 near Ellensburg that also killed the suspect and wounded police Officer Benito Chavez, 22, of the nearby small town of Kittitas.
Speakers described Thompson as a courageous hero who loved his community.
“We will never be the same,” said sheriff’s Deputy Ben Corbett, a friend and neighbor. “We enjoyed sharing life with you.”
Corbett added, “You will always be my backup.”
Thompson grew up in Walla Walla and is survived by his wife and three children.
The memorial service featured officers from the U.S. and Canada, and opened with the national anthems of both countries. People in the audience wiped away tears.
The suspect in the shooting was in the U.S. illegally, officials said.
Juan Manuel Flores Del Toro, 29, was a citizen of Mexico who entered the United States in 2014 at Laredo, Texas, on a temporary agricultural worker visa, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said. The agency had no record that Flores Del Toro left the U.S. or extended his visa after it expired.
Flores Del Toro died in a hospital a short time after the shootout. Investigators say they do not know why Flores Del Toro fled from the officers and that no warrants were pending for his arrest.
The two officers had tried to stop Flores Del Toro’s vehicle after they received a complaint about his driving. Authorities have described it as a “road-rage type event” without revealing more details.
Officers chased the car, which stopped in a trailer park in the town of Kittitas. Flores Del Toro got out and used a handgun to exchange gunfire with the officers, police said.
Thompson’s death was the first fatal shooting of a law-enforcement officer in the rural county since 1927, officials said.