AUGUSTA — People started gathering at Augusta’s law enforcement memorial before 8 p.m., Friday for a vigil organized by the Augusta Police Department to remember the police officers who were killed and injured by snipers in Dallas on Thursday at a peaceful protest.

Scores of them came from communities near and far, both civilians and law enforcement officials, to pray, to be together and to show support for law enforcement officials.

Among the uniformed law enforcement present were officers from Bath, Falmouth, Waterville and Augusta as well as deputies from Somerset and Kennebec counties and representatives from the Maine Warden Service and fire marshal’s office.

Kate Braestrup, chaplain for the Maine Warden Service was among the speakers to offer comments and comfort to those gathered. She said she had met two of the officers who were shot, one who was killed and one who was injured, when she attended a conference in Dallas last year.

“We said the pledge of allegiance, and in that room I noted there where people of all shapes, sizes, races, probably religions and sexual orientation,” Braestrup. “I realized they were my family.”

Braestrup, whose state trooper husband was killed in the line of duty, said when she turned on the television to see the news of the sniper attack, she felt an overwhelming sense of grief and anger, but also an overwhelming sense of pride. “Those men, who are a part of my family, were running in to help.”

She and other ministers offered prayers in support of the fallen officers and their families.

“Compassion is in the DNA of law enforcement,” she said. “The bottom line is that they serve in love.”

Galen Stockford, of East Winthrop, has not served in law enforcement, but he served in the military and in the past he’s had friends in law enforcement.

“So many people put their lives in danger to do their jobs,” he said. As a U.S. Army reservist, he served in the Gulf War, so he understands the concept of “serve and protect.”

State Reps. Catherine Nadeau, D-Winslow, and Lori Fowle, D-Vassalboro, said they heard about the vigil from Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, and they came to Augusta in support of law enforcement. Both representatives serve on the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee, and said they work with law enforcement officials across the state and know their concerns.

The vigil was announced by a post on the department’s Facebook page.

The five Dallas officers were killed and several others were injured during a protest over two recent fatal police shootings of black men, the Associated Press reported.

“It’s a tragedy,” Sgt. Chris Behr of the Augusta department, who organed the vigil, said Friday morning. “The officers down there in Dallas were protecting people. They were protecting protesters. It’s a terrible day.”

The Augusta vigil began at the law enforcement memorial on State Street at 8:58 p.m., which was the approximate time the shooting started in Dallas on Thursday.

“It’s a show of support for the fallen and the families of the fallen,” Behr said. “We just want to show that it’s a big law enforcement family.”

Gov. Paul LePage released a statement Friday afternoon calling it “a dark day in our nation.”

“The First Lady and I send our thoughts and prayers to the families of the brave law enforcement officers who lost their lives as they protected others. As Maine grieves with the rest of our nation, we also pray for the wounded,” LePage said in the statement. “This targeted and hateful attack is the epitome of evil. Our nation is built on a foundation of freedoms not hatred. Times like these determine a nation’s character and as Americans we have a responsibility to uphold our integrity and beliefs through strong leadership. We will not stand for acts of violence of this nature and we as a people will rise up to unite and trust that justice will be served to those who commit such violence against our society.

“As Maine law enforcement officers from Calais to Kittery mourn for their colleagues, we are keeping in mind our own brave men and women in uniform as they serve and protect,” the governor continued. “We are grateful for the service you provide our great state and its citizens. This and every day, we want you to make it home safely to your family and loved ones.”

LePage on Friday afternoon also directed the flags of the United States and state of Maine to be lowered to half-staff to honor the Dallas victims.

Skowhegan Police Chief Don Bolduc said four of his officers and a cruiser would go to the vigil.

“This is an extremely tragic incident that hits very, very close to home personally and professionally,” Bolduc said in an email Friday. “We need to come together for the officers and their families to show support. No one knows how much this affects our daily lives until they walk in our shoes. Every officer thinks about something like this happening every day we put on our badge, our gun, our bullet proof vest and our uniform. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone effected by this tragic incident and current state of affairs our country is going through.”

The Somerset County Sheriff’s Office also sent a deputy to the Augusta vigil, Sheriff Dale Lancaster said, and Waterville Police Chief Joe Massey said some of his agency’s officers would be there too.

Meanwhile, police departments across Maine took to social media Friday morning to express support for the police officers.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and victims in Dallas,” a representative of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office wrote on Facebook. “Those officers went out today to do their jobs with the hope of returning home just like every other law enforcement officer in the country. Rest in peace.”

The Buxton Police Department posted on its Facebook page that they “have heavy hearts for the five slain Dallas police officers and their families.”

“Our hearts and prayers are with the seven wounded officers and their families for a full and speedy recovery for the wounded. This is yet another senseless act of violence and cowardice directed toward law enforcement officers in this great nation. Law enforcement officers are there to ‘Serve and Protect’ their respected communities. We should not have to worry about being ambushed by the very citizens we are here to protect.”

The Bangor Police Department posted a message on its Facebook page thanking people for “an overflowing of wonderful support toward us” and other police departments across the country, including in Dallas. The department asked people to direct their “positive energy and support” to Dallas police and their families.

“The dead and injured officers have families and kids. We do too, but they need you more right now. Much more,” the Bangor Police Department posted.

The South Portland Police Department offered condolences to the families of the officers who were killed and injured.

“May those who were injured be able to quickly and fully recover and return to holding the thin blue line,” the department said.

In Scarborough, two young children dropped off cookies “to show their appreciation to police officers in light of the Dallas PD tragedy,” the department said in a Facebook post.

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