Those mourning Detective Campbell felt a connection to fallen officer
PORTLAND — Al Todina never knew Maine State Police Detective Ben Campbell, but when he took his dog Enzo for a walk on April 9 Todina made sure he passed the Cross Insurance Arena.
Todina, a retired police officer with 30 years of experience in Texas and Massachusetts, said he has lost friends in the line of duty before. Beaumont, Texas, police Officer Paul Hulsey Jr. was shot in 1988 when a stolen license plate led him to a man wanted for killing a 14-year-old girl in Florida and a 16-year-old girl in Indiana. Beaumont police Sgt. James “Mike” Lane went down in a helicopter crash in 2004.
In his sacrifice, Todina said, Campbell “epitomizes what is best about the law enforcement profession.”
“He wasn’t a road trooper, but he did what he was supposed to do. He did his duty, and he paid an ultimate sacrifice for keeping us all safe,” Todina said.
Campbell was memorialized with full honors during a funeral service at the arena. About 3,000 people attended. The 31-year-old Millinocket resident and Massachusetts native was killed by a logging truck wheel on Interstate 95 in Hampden on April 3.
Naomi Longworth came to the funeral because she met Campbell once, briefly. The trooper escorted motorcyclists with Patriot Riders of America on a charity run from Portland to Millinocket last year, she said.
After the event, the 44-year-old nurse from Freeport thanked Campbell for helping keep the riders safe, and she didn’t forget the moment.
“He’s got a very kind face. He’s a kind soul, and to lose him is a loss for society as a whole,” she said, her voice trembling with emotion.
Amber Ober said she came to Portland to honor Campbell and because she felt a connection with Campbell’s wife, Hilary, and their 6-month-old son, Everett.
The 23-year old from Dover-Foxcroft is married to a Piscataquis County sheriff’s deputy, and she was carrying their daughter, Elliot, who is 4 months old. She remembers exactly where she was when she heard of Campbell’s death.
“We were in the living room and his dad called him and told us about it. We said a prayer,” Ober said.
Losing a husband in the line of duty “is something that I worry about, too,” she said.
Washington County Sheriff Barry Curtis felt a slightly different connection with Campbell. Curtis was a Maine State Police trooper for 25 years and has had his share of close calls, he said. The tire strike was something that Curtis found unbelievable.
“This is not good at all. This is one of the weirdest accidents ever,” Curtis said.
Campbell’s funeral may have offered some comfort to the detective’s family and friends, but it also served as a reminder to strangers, Todina said.
“It is an important thing to pay respect. These guys and women who are working now, they understand the dangers,” Todina said. “Most of the public doesn’t truly comprehend the fact that these men and women get up in the morning or are on their way to work thinking, ‘Am I coming home tonight?’
“It’s not in the forefront of their minds, but it is something that is always there.”