HATTIESBURG, MS (WLOX) - As Hattiesburg police officers mourn the devastating loss of two of their own, they are asking people to please continue to pray for them and for families of the slain officers. On Monday, a vigil was held in Hattiesburg in honor of officers Liquori Tate and Benjamin Deen, both of whom were gunned down on Saturday during a traffic stop.
Gov. Phil Bryant, a former law enforcement officer himself, addressed the audience.
"They made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the people of this city," said Governor Bryant. "Some they did not and would not ever know because it was their job. It was their duty."
More than 1,000 people packed into a Hattiesburg convention center. Deen, a husband and father of two, was remembered by fellow officers for his dedication to the job.
"Always on time. Ready to go to work. Willing to go that extra mile, and that he did," said Capt. Peggy Sealy. "His first year at HPD he received an award for missing zero days of work. Zero days. That says something. That says a man who loved his job."
Asst. Police Chief Frank Misenhelter said Deen had a passion for taking on gang crime.
"He always had that smile on his face and that ole country drawl. When he did something good, and he always did a bunch of good things, he'd always find me and say, 'Chief, not too bad for an old country boy,'" Misenhelter recalled.
His coworkers said Liquori Tate always had a smile and despite the challenges never wavered in his commitment to become a Hattiesburg police officer.
Officer Jason Jarvis met Tate at the academy in 2014.
"Honestly, the first time I spoke with him I never thought he was mentally strong enough to make it through the academy," said Jarvis. "But what I found out later though was Officer Tate wanted to be a cop more than anyone I've ever met."
The Tate and Deen families and fellow officers said seeing so many people come out to show them love brings comfort to their broken hearts.
"It's amazing to see everybody come out to be a part of it to back us. That's what we as officers want right off the bat," said Chadra Daniels, Hattiesburg Police officer. "We just want you to have our back and most of all wrap your arms around us and the family. Watch and keep over us and keep us in your prayers."
Youlander Ross said she is touched by the love shown to her as she is mourning the loss of her 25 year old son, Liquori Tate.
"It showed me that his job and what he did it really meant something. When he put his uniform on, he didn't do in vain," Ross said. "He took honor and dignity in putting that uniform on. It wasn't just a routine thing for him. This was his life. This was his dream. That he was loved for his service and what he did. How he protected everyone. It showed me that they really appreciated my son in his line of duty."
Mayor Johnny DuPree told the Deen and Tate families, "God loves you. We love you. This community loves you."
Funeral services for Officer Benjamin Deen will be Thursday at 11am at Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg. He will then be laid to rest in Sumrall. Liquori Tate will have a visitation from 5:00-8:00 p.m., Friday, at West Point Baptist Church on Hartfield Rd. in Hattiesburg. Funeral services will follow at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday at West Point Baptist Church.
Hattiesburg Police officials said part of the reason they were able to apprehend the suspects in the murders of the officers so quickly was because of the help of community in locating the suspects. Mayor DuPree praised the relationship between law enforcement and the community and how residents are coming together in unity in a time of great tragedy.
"You ought to be proud of your city because people view Hattiesburg not as a Baltimore. Not as a Fergurson. They view us as Hattiesburg, Mississippi," said Mayor DuPree.