MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The St. Paul Police Department is mourning the loss of 59-year-old Officer Benny Williams, who passed away unexpectedly late Monday night.

Williams was born and raised in St. Paul, and spent the last 27 years of his life as an officer in the city. He suddenly became ill Sunday night and was rushed to the hospital, where he died 22 hours later. His death has left a big hole in the Capitol city.

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The last time Tyrone Terrell saw his friend and brother alive was Friday night at the St. Paul Police gala.

“I looked at that picture of me him and [Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria] Arradondo today,” Terrell said. “Was one of the most gut-wrenching things to see a brother on Friday night, to have that much fun with him, and then get the call yesterday to come to the hospital,” Terrell said.

He was one of several people from the community who joined police officers and family at Williams’s bedside.

“It’s not just a loss of St. Paul PD. It’s not just a loss for his family. It’s a community loss,” Terrell said. “When you lose somebody who loved St. Paul as much as he did, it hurts. It’s not even real.”

Officer Benny Williams (credit: CBS)

What is real is how much Williams meant to so many people. Police Chief Todd Axtell says Williams loved his family, his job and his community.

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“What a human being to be able to serve our public so well with dignity and respect. He was engaging, he built trust throughout our entire community,” Axtell said. “Bennie spent a lot of time reuniting families with missing loved ones.”

Axtell says Williams worked as a missing persons investigator before he was assigned to be a guard for Mayor Melvin Carter in 2018. Carter was with Williams and his family as he took his last breath. The mayor was too overwhelmed with grief to appear on camera to talk about the man he considered family.

“We have on our squad cars, ‘Trust With Service And Respect,’ which is the motto the chief put on the cars when he became chief, and Benny represented all that,” Terrell said.

He believes Williams’s spirit will continue to serve and protect the community he truly loved.

“Benny is physically gone, but bro, we will never stop talking about Benny Williams,” Terrell said.

Mayor Carter released a statement saying Williams was “a born protector committed to serving everyone in our community, and above all, a constant presence for good in Saint Paul.”

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Williams leaves behind a wife and two adult children.

Reg Chapman