Carrying candles and blue glow sticks, hundreds gathered in front of the Alamo to honor the life of Detective Benjamin Marconi. Friends, family members, and supporters silently marched one mile to the San Antonio Police headquarters where he was shot to death Sunday in a random act of aggression.

At an ever-growing memorial there, in front of countless officers on bicycles, motorcycles, and in patrol vehicles, Marconi’s family members prayed, wrote messages on a “Back the Blue” poster, and left in silence.

“We have truly lost an amazing human being,” said Moises Ortiz, a friend and neighbor of Marconi’s who met him when the two lived at the Vistana apartments just blocks from the headquarters. “He was kind, generous, patient, but strong. We’ve lost a hero and a friend.”

Marconi was murdered while writing a ticket for an unrelated driver during a routine traffic stop. Otis Tyrone McKane, arrested 30 hours later, parked behind Marconi’s patrol car, approached the vehicle, and shot Marconi twice in the head. Marconi was transported to SAMMC, where he was pronounced dead.

He is survived by two children, Jacy Lewis Marconi and Dane Gregory Marconi, and an infant grandchild.

“He was loving, caring – such a good man,” another close neighbor, Christopher Hoffman, said.

Friends and fellow police officers described Marconi as someone who put his best into each day, maintained a positive attitude, and above all, supported those around him.

“He was somebody you knew always had your back,” Lt. Hector Salas, who worked alongside Marconi, told the Rivard Report. 

A number of awards won during his 20 years with SAPD demonstrate his initiative and skill on the job. In 2002, Marconi won the Top Gun Award for saving a child who was drowning in a flooded creek. He also won the CPA Officer of the Month Award for performing “his duties to the highest possible standards, while demonstrating his technical competence in every aspect,” according to a report made by his supervisor.

“He was very dedicated to his tactics, trained hard, kept himself physically fit, (and) did whatever was asked of him,” Detective Paul Biasiolli added. “He was a model officer.”

Marconi’s Twitter account showed his concern with the rising aggression toward law enforcement this year, voicing solidarity with victims of targeted attacks. He also an avid Donald Trump supporter and advocated passionately for the LGBTQIA community.

“He was a respected person in the community,” said Robert Salcido of Equality Texas, an LGBTQIA advocacy group. “He was often referred to as the go-to person … always willing to lend a helping hand when needed.”

Equality Texas will be discussing Marconi at its next community conversation on LGBTQIA issues, held at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 30.

This year has been particularly deadly for law enforcement. Marconi’s killing marking the 58th fire-arms-related police fatality this year, a 61% increase from 2015 but still short of 2011.

Ortiz described Sunday’s news as “devastating” and “surreal.”

“And then, as the story unfolds, it gets progressively more unreal and unfathomable,” he added.

In a video posted by KSAT Monday night, McKane, who had a previous criminal record, told reporters he was angry over a custody battle and “lashed out at somebody who didn’t deserve it.” Three hours before the murder, surveillance footage shows him pacing in front of the police headquarters, entering, and exiting 30 seconds afterward, though the details of his interaction with SAPD staff have not been released.

A private viewing will be held this Sunday at Porter Loring Morturary, followed by a Rosary. His funeral will take place Monday at 11 a.m. at the Community Bible Church, 2477 Loop 1604. A public reception will follow. At 7:30 p.m. that evening, the public is encouraged to join in another silent memorial walk from the Alamo to the police headquarters.

For many officers and community members wearing “Blue Lives Matters” shirts, the vigil represented the community’s broader appreciation for the police force.

“We’d just like to point out that we’re people, too, and our safety is just as important as anybody else’s,” said Capt. Shawn Ury.

Estimating that he’s seen about 15 officers killed during his 23 years with the SAPD, Ury said it feels like losing a family member every time.

“There’s a brotherhood that develops when you have to kind of watch out for each other on a daily basis,” Ury said.

A number of women whose husbands had been killed in the line of duty also attended the vigil. Linda Gorrell, who said she’s participated in every police memorial since her husband was shot in 1988, said the sacrifices officers and their families make are largely under-appreciated.

“You really get tired of hearing people badmouth the police, but when you need them, they’re there for you,” she said.

Families involved in this kind of tragedy, she said, usually experience a state of shock, but after a few months, that dissolves into anger and loneliness. Each time an officer is killed, Gorrell said, she relives that process again.

While policemen said these tragedies never get easier, many were moved by the large and diverse crowd that gathered to pay its respects.

“It’s a tremendous loss for us, but the outpouring of support that we’ve achieved from the community is tonight very humbling,” Biasiolli said. “It’s not what we do this job for, but it’s very appreciative. I know it shows his family how much the community cares.”

Daniel Kleifgen

Daniel Kleifgen graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy. A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., he came to San Antonio in 2013 as a Teach For America corps member.