EL  PASO, Texas (KTSM) – El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen,  who led the department for nearly 15 years, has died unexpectedly.

According to the nonprofit news organization ElPasoMatters.org, Assistant Chief Zina Silva announced Allen’s death in an email to officers Tuesday afternoon.

Allen, 71, has been El Paso’s  police chief since 2008 and was the first Black man to serve as the city’s police chief.

El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said Allen had been in the hospital recovering from a medical procedure.

“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.”

He had been with the department since 1978 and rose up through the ranks.

According to a city biography, Allen was appointed chief on March 31, 2008.

In 40-plus years with the department, he has worked as a patrol officer, training specialist at the Police Academy, sergeant, lieutenant and deputy chief.

Allen has served in several high profile units in the department including the Gang Task Force, SWAT, the Tactical Section, Auto Theft Task Force and commander of the Dignitary Protection Team.

During his tenure in the Tactical Section and SWAT, he served as a field officer as well as a supervisor. He was the first and only supervisor of a full-time SWAT Unit.

Allen is a graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology in 1975.

He has been involved in the study of martial arts for approximately 40 years. In 1995, he was inducted into the El Paso Boxing and Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

“He is probably one of the finest individuals I’ve had the honor or pleasure to serve with or to know personally,” former Mayor Dee Margo told KTSM. “We went through a lot, especially the Aug. 3 shooting. He was dearly beloved by the force. From a character standpoint, he was unsurpassed in his integrity. He was a great role model and example to others.”

During his tenure, El Paso was named “The Safest Large City” in the United States for four consecutive years from 2010-2013. He was also chief during the Aug. 3, 2019, Walmart massacre.

His tenure was not without controversy. In 2016, he referred to Black Lives Matter as a “radical hate group.

During the summer of 2020, when the country was rocked by protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, dueling petitions emerged in El Paso, one asking for Allen’s removal and one supporting him.

“We lost a great leader today,” El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said. “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.

“He earned the respect of every officer on his force, and I was proud to call him my friend,” Leeser continued. “He will be greatly missed, and the City of El Paso will be forever indebted to him for his leadership. Our heart goes out to his wife Rosanne and his entire family at this difficult and painful time. He was an esteemed member of our City family and we mourn alongside them.”

El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles said the region has lost a dedicated servant and a “friend to many.”

“I could go on and on about Greg’s accomplishments and recognitions, but the thing I will miss most about him is our long phone conversations in which we were able to vent to one another,” Wiles said in a statement. “Today we lost a dedicated public servant, and friend to many, who gave over 44 years of his life to the service of his community.  I will miss you Greg.  On behalf of all the men and women of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, I send our sincerest condolences to his wife, Rosanne, his family and friends, and every member of the El Paso Police Department.”

El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles with El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen.

The El Paso Police Department’s Twitter account added this statement on Allen’s death:

“EPPD and the community are heartbroken over the loss of Police Chief Greg Allen. He was a dedicated servant of our community, always putting the needs of the people first. We will honor his legacy by continuing to serve our community with the same passion and commitment as he did.”

Homeland Security Investigations El Paso Special Agent in Charge Francisco B. Burrola said:

“HSI El Paso is saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Police Chief Greg Allen. We express our heartfelt condolences to the El Paso Police Department. Chief Allen was a valued law enforcement partner, true leader and friend.  

“Chief Allen partnered with HSI El Paso throughout the years in our agencies’ shared mission of making El Paso the safest city in America. Gone too soon. HSI El Paso will always cherish his memory, and be indebted for his service to our great city.

“Our heart goes out to his wife, Rosanne, and his entire family during this difficult time. They remain in our thoughts and prayers.”