Athena Brown, 7 of Harlingen asks Alton police Lt. George Ibarra to take a picture with her during Breakfast with our Peace Officers at Nuri Fusion Street Kitchen on Saturday in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

McALLEN — Members of local law enforcement gathered at Nuri in McAllen to give out free sandwiches Saturday morning.

The event came about when Nuri chef Roman Gabriel Fuentes contacted South Texas Sheepdogs, with whom he has helped organize other events including one for the late state trooper Moises Sanchez.

“I just thought that with everything that’s going on, we could put our law enforcement, our peace officers, in a nice light, and if the community had any questions they could talk to them,” Fuentes said after the event. “We just wanted to do a good thing. It’s not a political thing. There’s no agenda behind it. We’re just giving away food.”

Fuentes said that the officers gave out 300 meals to families in attendance.

“It was pretty neat,” Fuentes said. “From what I gathered, the community was bringing gifts for the law enforcement officers. They were bringing them gift cards and donuts and cookies. It was really neat to see. With everything that’s going on, sometimes some peace is good.”

Alton Police Chief Jonathan Flores was one of the 20-plus law enforcement officers who attended the event, including Palmhurst and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD police; the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office and district court bailiffs, among others.

Flores said it is always beneficial to give back to the community that supports them.

“We serve our communities, day in and day out,” Flores said, who has been in law enforcement for over 19 years. “We want our community to continue to have faith in us and to have trust in us as we work diligently to serve them. Events like this go a long way in helping bridge the gap between local law enforcement entities in our communities.

“Today was nothing more than us saying thank you for the support, and we’re here for you.”

Given the unrest surrounding the death of George Floyd — a black man who died in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25 while a white police officer knelt down on his neck, causing Floyd to plead, “I can’t breathe,” over the suspected use of a counterfeit $20 bill — trust in law enforcement has been called into question throughout the nation.

Local police officers prepare breakfast biscuits during the Breakfast with our local Peace Officers at Nuri Fusion Street Kitchen on Saturday in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

Such is the unrest that it’s prompted widespread protests in the U.S., with communities of all backgrounds demonstrating and marching on a historic scale in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and against police brutality.

“Given the current climate and the things going on in the country, I would submit to the general public that the majority of hard working men and women in law enforcement are good, hard-working people who are there to serve their communities,” Flores said. “The poor decision-making of a few should not dictate the perception of law enforcement as a whole. The majority of us want to serve and protect our communities, and do so in a professional manner.”

With regard to Saturday’s breakfast, Flores said Alton police will always participate in any event that gives back to the community.

“Regardless of what’s going on in the country right now, we would have participated in an event like this,” Flores said. “We’re very community-oriented. As a whole, the entire Rio Grande Valley law enforcement is very community-oriented.”

McAllen ISD police officer G. Del Angel and Alton police Lt. George Ibarra pass out free breakfasts during Breakfast with our local Peace Officer at Nuri Fusion Street Kitchen on Saturday in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

As for Fuentes, he said that he will always support the community and continue to support local law enforcement entities with his business.

“We’ve always supported our law enforcement. Obviously, things need to change. What happened did not need to happen, and these law enforcement — they know that,” Fuentes said of Floyd’s death.. “Things need to change, but we’ll always back our community and our law enforcement. Our motto is ‘food for the people,’ so we’re for everyone.”

Monitor photojournalist Delcia Lopez contributed to this report.