PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Hundreds of first responders from across Maine gathered at Parkers' restaurant in Portland to begin a 60-mile motorcycle memorial benefit ride in honor of two Portland Police officers who died almost ten years ago.
Sergeant Rob Johnsey and Sergeant Rick Betters both died unexpectedly. Johnsey died of an accidental gunshot wound to his femoral artery in 2008. Betters died of a heart attack the morning after a tactical callout in 2009. They both left behind wives and children.
"He is the type of guy -- he would be here as well. He would be out here in force supporting them and their families," said Jessica Betters, Rick's wife. "It's been just overwhelming to see this."
Carol Johnsey, Rob's wife, echoed Jessica's sentiments.
"To see this many people come out to support law enforcement and their families, it's important to me that people see a positive thing happening," said Johnsey.
Westbrook Police Chief Janine Roberts worked with both men during her time at Portland PD, and organizes the memorial benefit ride every year. Through raffle tickets and donations, they have raised about $3000 each year, 100 percent of which goes to the families to help support them financially.
"Any sudden death is something that hits you emotionally," said Roberts. "They were good public servants and good leaders in their own right in their respective positions."
The crew of nearly 100 riders, which the families said was the most they had ever seen at the event, rode from Portland to Naples.
Chief Roberts said the goal is to keep the memory of these officers alive.
"I do the ride to honor the memories of Rob Johnsey and Rick Betters support their families and to continue building the family and the camaraderie within the public safety profession and our families and friends," said Roberts.
Roberts has organized the ride for nine years. The first year was dedicated solely to Sgt. Johnsey. It was later changed to include Sgt. Betters after his death.
Roberts said she hoped to raise $3,200 this year.