Officer Gregg "Nigel" Benner
Rio Rancho Police Department, New Mexico
End of Watch: Monday, May 25, 2015
Tour of Duty: 4 years
Badge Number: 163
Cause of Death: Gunfire
Date of Incident: May 25, 2015
Weapon Used: Handgun
Suspect Info: 1 at large; 1 in custody
Agency Contact Information
Police Chief Michael Geier
Rio Rancho Police Department
500 Quantum Rd NE
Rio Rancho, NM 87124
Phone: (505) 891-5900
Officer Nigel Benner was shot and killed while making a traffic stop near the intersection of Pinetree Road and Southern Road at approximately 8:15 pm.
After making contact with the two occupants the vehicle fled and Officer Benner pursued it a short distance before it stopped again in the area of 900 Pinetree Road SE. One of the subjects opened fire on Officer Benner, wounding him, before fleeing again.
Officer Benner was transported to UNM Hospital where he succumbed to his wounds.
One of the subjects was arrested by members of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office later in the night. The other subject remains at large.
Officer Benner was a U.S. Air Force veteran and had served with the Rio Rancho Police Department for four years. He is survived by his wife, two children, and three stepchildren.
Rio Rancho police have identified the officer killed in the line of duty and the suspect accused of shooting him on Memorial Day.
Just after 8 p.m. Monday, Officer Gregg "Nigel" Benner was shot during a traffic stop near Southern Boulevard and Pinetree Road in Rio Rancho. He later died at UNM Hospital, the department confirmed early Tuesday.
Benner, 49, was a four-year veteran of the department and a married father of four adult children. He was also an Air Force veteran.
"Officer Benner was a dedicated military veteran and law enforcement officer and his tragic death is deeply saddening to the tight-knit community of Rio Rancho," Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull said in a statement. "The City of Rio Rancho mourns his untimely death and I urge community members to keep Officer Benner’s family in their thoughts and prayers. Our police officers hold a special place in our hearts as they lay their lives on the line every day protecting our safety and this is a stark reminder of their sacrifice."
RRPD said this is the first time an officer has been shot and killed in the line of duty in the department’s 34-year history.
Monday night, officer Benner pulled over a man and woman in an 1999 Dodge Durango at Arby’s on Southern Boulevard. The license plate attached to the Durango did not match the vehicle, which may have been the impetus of the stop, according to a police spokesperson.
The suspects, a female driver and a passenger — a man identified as 28-year-old Andrew Romero — then fled in the vehicle and ended up near the Esther Bone Memorial Library.
Investigators are still trying to determine the exact details, but say at some point, the exchange turned violent. Police said Romero likely reached around the woman in the driver’s seat and shot Benner several times in the torso.
Benner was unable to draw his gun in time, Rio Rancho Police Chief Michael Geier said.
Police confirmed in a Tuesday news conference that a handgun was used and at least three casings were found. The handgun was connected to a robbery that Romero allegedly committed later Monday night.
A Good Samaritan and an off-duty paramedic immediately rushed to Benner’s aid after the shooting. The officer was transported to UNM Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.
Rio Rancho police said the female driver stayed on scene while Romero fled. She was shot in the foot and is currently being held on previous charges related to probation violations, according to Chief Geier.
Romero has previous convictions for violent crimes, including serving three years in prison for manslaughter. He was wanted on an outstanding warrant for probation violations.
Around 3:30 a.m., several law enforcement agencies helped locate and arrest Romero at a Valero gas station near Rio Bravo and Broadway in Albuquerque. Police say he was in another stolen vehicle at that time.
Police say they still have not found the Durango involved in the shooting and ask the public not to touch it if it is found.
Chief Geier says Romero will most likely be charged with an open count of murder, assault on a peace officer, felon in possession of a firearm and other charges related to his active warrants. However, the formal charges will be determined by 13th Judicial District Attorney Lemuel Martinez.
The FBI is seeking federal gun charges against Romero, according to Geier.
A high school student who witnessed part of the incident told KOB he heard four gunshots and could smell the gunfire from where he was riding his bike.
"There was four shots, just went pop, pop, pop, pop−four real quick shots. And I was looking that direction, you know right away … it’s like, where’s it coming from, and then I looked a little bit closer to me, and then that’s when I saw the actual person giving him CPR and some dude laying on the ground," Elijah Ortiz Y Pino said.
A candlelight vigil for Benner took place at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Haynes Park in Rio Rancho. A memorial fund has been set up at all Wells Fargo locations called the "Officer Gregg Benner Memorial Fund," account number 2514262472.
The Esther Bone Memorial Library will be closed until further notice due to the ongoing investigation.
Gov. Susana Martinez released a statement on Officer Benner’s death Tuesday afternoon: "As the wife and daughter of law enforcement officers, this terrible tragedy hits close to home, and I am absolutely heartbroken. Sadly, this underscores the danger that our police officers face every time they walk out the door to keep our families safe. As a former prosecutor, it is my hope that justice is served quickly. I ask all New Mexicans to join me and Chuck in keeping Officer Benner’s family – and all law enforcement – in our prayers."
Third District Congressman Ben Ray Lujan also released a statement: "It is with great sadness that we mourn the death of Officer Gregg Benner, who was serving his community as a member of the Rio Rancho Police Department. The loss of any police officer is a painful reminder of the dangers they face each and every day. Officers like Gregg Benner are willing to step into harm’s way, putting their health and safety on the line to protect the communities they proudly serve. Officer Benner made the ultimate sacrifice and will be remembered for his brave service both on the Rio Rancho police force and as a member of the U.S. Air Force. My thoughts and prayers are with Officer Benner’s family, friends, fellow officers, and the entire Rio Rancho community during this difficult time."
Pizza 9 said it will donate 10 percent of its sales on June 3 to the fund set up for Officer Brenner.