BRISTOL, Conn. (WTNH) — Thousands gathered Friday night in Bristol, holding candles outside the police department as Officer Alex Hamzy was brought by the station one final time.

His body in the back of a tactical unit vehicle, his vest and uniform mounted on the front bumper, his team outside his truck at his side.

“It’s just awful, and for me to get over it, it’s going to be a long time,” said Bill Leone, a retired Bristol police officer. “I think about it all the time. It could’ve been me. It could’ve been one of my friends that I worked with. But by the grace of God go I.”

Hamzy, along with Sgt. Dustin DeMonte, was shot and killed Wednesday while responding to a 911 call about a domestic violence situation at a home. Officer Alec Iurato was wounded.

The suspect, Nicholas Brutcher, was killed. His brother, Nathan Brutcher, was injured.

As the vehicle stopped in front of the police department, the crowd began repeatedly yelling “Thank you for your service” and “Thank you for keeping us safe.”

In the crowd, retired Bristol officers and their families paid tribute.

“It’s tough, but it is part of the job,” Bob Flanagan, a retired officer, said. “You never know. You leave at night, you kiss your wife goodbye, and you don’t know if you’re coming home or not.”

It’s difficult on the families, as well.

“It’s the hardest thing in the world to watch the man you love walk out the door not knowing if he’s going to come home again,” Kathy Flanagan said. “That’s what it was like for 15 years. He had so many injures, the hospital called me so many times. It’s not easy.”

It took 17 minutes for all the police officers who came from all across New England to pass by the station.

“We have to be here,” Leone said. “We are drawn to this. there’s no other way. They’re our brothers. We had a picnic last week that was retirees and regular, active members, and I met two of these guys. I never met them before. they came up to me, they knew as a lieutenant in the police department. they shook my hand, introduced themselves, and a week later, they’re gone.”

Leone’s 10-year-old grandson hopes to one day wear the badge. Leone said he won’t talk him out of it.

“I tell him ‘Don’t be afraid to do it,'” he said.