SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Coast police officers are mourning the deaths of two of their brothers in uniform, shot and killed in the line of duty, not far from home.
"It's just a tragedy. Our hearts, our thoughts, our prayers go out to the entire family of these officers," said Lt. Tim Hendricks, with the D'Iberville Police Department.
The two officers who were killed were identified as Benjamin J. Deen, 34, and Liquori Tate, 25. Four suspects have been charged in connection with the fatal shootings.
"It's even heartbreaking to lose someone to natural causes, so when we lose a brother or sister in blue to violent situations that surround our law enforcement profession, it hurts us all," said Sgt. Damon McDaniel, with the Gulfport Police Department.
Reports say the officers were shot during a routine traffic stop, but McDaniel says traffic stops should never be seen as routine.
"When you approach a car, you never know what you could expect upon that approach of the driver's side of the vehicle. From a nice, little old lady, to a teenager, to a wanted fugitive. You never know until you approach the vehicle," said McDaniel.
In recent months, protests against police brutality have plagued several cities in the United States, and that has created a separation between those in uniform and those who are not.
"I know that there is a little stigmatism in the country at this time, and law enforcement is looked upon and scrutinized sometimes, but again, we're trying to overcome that and show that again, we are just a partner in the community," said Hendricks.
Hendricks says incidents like the one in Hattiesburg and the protests happening around the country are a stark reminder of the challenges, and sometimes dangers, that come along with police work.
"We have to maintain a higher level of vigilance now, and we have to maintain a high level of training throughout our ranks to ensure that everybody is on their feet at all times, on their toes," said Hendricks.
Both the D'Iberville and Gulfport Police Departments say they will offer any support to the Hattiesburg Police Department they may need during this difficult time.