NEW ORLEANS, La. - Family, friends and colleagues honored the life of a fallen hero Wednesday. A vigil was held in the evening for New Orleans Police Department Officer Marcus McNeil, who was killed while on-duty last week.
Five days after the 29-year-old was shot and killed, the New Orleans community came to honor him.
"We're here to pay homage to a man who came to St. Augustine High School," Eddie Williams, the school's marching band director, said. "He played the tuba and was all around a great kid. Just hearing from some of his colleagues, that he remained that same young, humble man that he was at St. Aug."
Hundreds gathered at a vigil held at the 7th District Station where McNeil worked for three years. Edward Blouin didn't know him, but felt it necessary to be there.
"I think I should start thinking of the policemen as family," he said. "I would always go to a family, relative or friend's funeral and I think that if we all would do that and support the police as they support us, we'd be able to have a better community."
McNeil was killed last Friday while patrolling near Tara Lane and Lake Forest Boulevard. Police say he was shot several times after he saw something suspicious and got out of his unit.
"Marcus died doing what he loved to do, surrounded by members who love and care about him and we'll continue to honor that legacy," said District 7 Commander, Lawrence Dupree. "Marcus always had a smile on his face from day one. He served this community along with the men and women of the 7th District with distinction."
Dupree said losing a colleague is never easy, especially a friend like McNeil. Knowing he'd never see him walk into their headquarters, Dupree says, will always be hard.
"I'll always know that he's not there," he said. "He had a smile and I'm going to save it and say how much that smile means to me. I'm going to save that because it's actually a special moment between me and Marcus."
As people stood hand-in-hand listening to McNeil's Alma Mater's marching band play and to what was said about this young man, the sadness seemed to float away. Because some know this man who died protecting people, is now watching and protecting from above.
"A lot of citizens, officers cared about him and loved him," said Dupree.
"I consider all policemen heroes now because it's such a difficult job," said Blouin. "You got to be a dedicated person to be an officer."
Dupree and other colleagues of McNeil are urging anyone who can to come out Saturday to help send their hero and friend home for his final salute. More information on McNeil's funeral and visitation can be found here.