Detective Ben Marconi wasn’t even supposed to be working the day he was fatally shot on the job last month in San Antonio, Texas.
“He didn’t really patrol anymore, so when we heard that an officer had been shot, we didn’t think it could possibly be him,” Marconi’s brother, Tom Marconi, tells PEOPLE exclusively. “But he’d picked up a shift. He absolutely loved his job and the people he worked with, so he helped out anywhere he could.”
Investigators said Ben, 50, was writing out a ticket in his patrol vehicle at around 11:45 a.m. on Nov. 20 when the gunman police believe to be 31-year-old Otis Tyrone McKane allegedly drove up beside him in a black car and fired two shots into the vehicle — striking Ben in the head.
“My youngest son works in county dispatch, so he was the first one to hear the news and called us. It was very traumatic for him,” says Tom, 56. “We never expected this to happen to Ben.”
Tom says his family is “still in [the] shock phase” but is “clinging together” and sharing memories of Ben, who was “was genuine, kind, humble and modest.”
“He never spoke of his heroic measures,” Tom says. “It was just who he was.”
The way Ben died — after picking up a shift — was, in a way, a reflection of his character.
“His brothers and sisters in blue knew that they could count on him if they needed his help,” Tom says. “Whether he was on shift that day or not, he would drop everything if they needed help with something. One of his fellow officers spoke at the funeral and said that Ben would keep a jar of candy bars on his desk. When anyone of them came in to get a candy bar, he would ask them to sit and talk.”
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Ben’s brother says the detective — a second-generation cop and 20-year veteran of the San Antonio police — was a “mentor” to his colleagues and his family.
“Our two sisters, Terri and Debbie, and I could always count on Ben no matter the situation. He always had time to listen. He made time to listen. His nephews and niece looked up to him,” Tom says of his brother. “After our mom passed away, Ben and his family moved in with Dad. It gave us comfort to know that Dad was not alone. If something had happened to me, Ben would have been there for my boys and my wife.”
Tom adds that Ben was a “strong family man” who loved to cook and enjoyed spending time with his 23-year-old son, Dane, 27-year-old stepdaughter, Jacy, and 10-month-old grandson, Mason, who knew him as “Noni.”
“Ben’s smile was always bigger than life but, boy, to see him with his grandson — now that was a sight I will never forget,” Tom says. “Pure happiness.”
‘People Have Been So Kind’
Tom says the outpouring of support his family has received since his brother’s death has been “overwhelming.” From having Ben honored on the big screen at a San Antonio Spurs game to having a Thanksgiving feast donated to his family, “people have been so kind,” Tom says.
“We were reminded of the fact that there are a lot of good people out there. As Jacy put it, ‘It was something that we needed to be reminded of.’ ”
When McKane was booked on Nov. 21, the alleged shooter told reporters he was upset over a child custody battle.
“I’ve been through several custody battles, and I was upset at the situation I was in, and I lashed out at someone who didn’t deserve it,” he said, according to TV station KENS. “I just want to see my son.”
Tom says his brother would have understood that anger.
“If you ask anyone who really knew Ben, they will tell you that had this man gone up to him and told him about his anger and that he needed help, Ben would have been the first one to help him,” Tom says. “He would have done anything that he could.
“Ben wasn’t about trying to throw people in jail. He was about trying to keep them out of jail in the first place. He reached out to the community he served so proudly.”
Tom feels “justice” needs to be served and McKane “should be held accountable for what he did.”
“And others need to see that they, too, will be held accountable if they commit such an act,” continues Tom, who would also like to see increased funding for police departments to accommodate additional staffing and the technology incorporated in SAPD vehicles that would warn them when someone was approaching.
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“People can’t forget that it is law enforcement, as well as other first responders, that comes to their aid,” Tom says. “They shouldn’t have to feel that they become a target the minute they put on a uniform.”
But he would rather focus on how his brother lived than how he died.
“Ben was never afraid to say, ‘I love you.’ After every phone call, seeing him in person, or by text, the last thing he always said was, ‘I love you,’ ” Tom says. “If you want to honor Ben, do something kind for someone. Shake a first responder’s hand. Do something to make a difference in this world. Hug your loved ones a little tighter.
“Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I love you.’ If we could each strive to be a little more like Ben, this world would be a wonderful place.”