El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen, who had led the department for almost 15 years, died Tuesday.
Assistant Chief Zina Silva announced his death in an email to officers Tuesday afternoon.
“It is with heavy heart that we share this sad news that our beloved leader Police Chief Gregory K. Allen has passed away earlier today to be with God,” she told the staff.
Allen, 71, has been El Paso’s police chief since 2008, the first African American to hold that rank. No cause of death was provided.
“This is a terrible loss for Chief Allen’s family, and it is heartbreaking for us, his City family as he meant so much to our organization and to our community,” City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said. “We send our deepest condolences to his wife, Roseanne, and his entire family.”
Joyce Wilson, the city manager who promoted Allen to chief in 2008, called him “a patrolman’s chief. They all loved and respected him and he was 100% committed to the department, profession and community. I’m shocked and devastated. He was a friend and I really loved him for the person he was.”
Allen’s body will lie in state from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Judson F. Williams Convention Center in Downtown El Paso. Free parking will be available at the Convention Center and Union Plaza Parking Garage.
Funeral will be at 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 27, at Abundant Living Faith Center, 1000 Valley Crest Drive. Internment with police honors will follow at Evergreen East Cemetery,12400 Montana.
He joined the department in 1978 and rose through the ranks. He also was a martial artist and in 1995 was inducted into the El Paso Boxing and Martial Arts Hall of Fame.
“We lost a great leader today. El Paso Chief of Police Greg Allen was not only an incredible chief of police, but he was an incredible son, husband, father, and friend,” Mayor Oscar Leeser said in a statement.
Allen grew up in El Paso and graduated from Bel Air High School. He graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso.
He joined an El Paso Police Department that had a history of mistreating Black officers, said Ron Stallworth, who grew up in El Paso and went onto a law-enforcement career in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah before writing the best-selling book “Black Klansman.”
“The fact that he came from where he did to be the first Black police chief in the city of El Paso – knowing what the history of this city was and history of the black officers in the department – the fact that he achieved what he did is very significant, and I think it should be noted by everyone,” Stallworth said.
Although they grew up around the same time in El Paso, Allen and Stallworth never met until Stallworth retired and moved back to El Paso in 2017.
“I asked him, why don’t you let me write your story? And he said, who wants to talk about me? I said you have an interesting history. You’re the first black police chief in El Paso. I said, that’s an achievement, that’s worth knowing about,” Stallworth said. “He said, I’d have to think about that. Nobody’s interested in me.”
City Rep. Cassandra Hernandez said she wants to ensure the public and his family are involved in ways to respectfully honor Allen for his public service.
“My heart goes out to his family and to all of the police officers that have had the pleasure of working with him over the past 40 plus years with the city of El Paso,” Hernandez said.
She said she is confident Gonzalez will implement an appropriate interim chief and do his due diligence in finding a permanent replacement.
During Allen’s tenure as chief, El Paso was repeatedly ranked as the nation’s safest city based on crime data reported to the FBI.
But Allen’s tenure also was filled with controversy. In 2016, he referred to Black Lives Matter as “a radical hate group.”
Last year, in an unprecedented step, the El Paso City Council voted to settle a lawsuit by paying $1.2 million to a family that claimed poor policies and leadership from Allen led to the 2015 shooting of Erik Salas Sanchez. The 22-year-old man was in a mental health crisis when he was fatally shot by a police officer in his parents’ home.
This story was updated at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 21 with funeral arrangements.