BATON ROUGE (CN) - Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday remembered the three Baton Rouge police officers who were shot to death July 17 as courageous men he wished he had known.
Appearing at a memorial to the slain officers the morning after speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Biden said without knowing the slain officers personally, he was well-aware of the sort of fearless and protective citizens they were.
"I didn't have the privilege of knowing these brave men, but I knew them," the vice president told the hundreds of people at a two-hour long memorial service held at the Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge.
Each of the officers had a separate funeral earlier in the week.
Also Thursday, for the first time since the Sunday July 17 killings, the wives of the fallen officers spoke publicly about their husbands and their loss.
For much of Biden's time speaking, he addressed the wives directly.
Biden said the fallen officers were like the neighbors he had had growing up, "the guys who if you ever got in a fight always jumped in," because they always "had your back."
The memorial service was officially titled the "East Baton Rouge Community Memorial for Hope and Healing," and each of the seven speakers who visited the podium before the officers' wives focused much attention on the need to heal the community.
In addition to Biden, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, state Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson, Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. and Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux III spoke during the memorial service.
Baton Rouge Police Officers Matthew Gerald, 41, Montrell Jackson, 32, and East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office Deputy Brad Garafola, 45, were gunned down the morning of Sunday July 17 after they responded to a call that a man with a rifle was walking along Airline Highway.
Another three officers were injured in the gunfire; two remain hospitalized, with Sheriff Deputy Nicholas Tullier described Thursday as remaining in critical condition.
The attack on the officers came nearly two weeks following the deaths of Alton Sterling, 37, a black man who was shot by Baton Rouge police officers while he was being restrained on the ground, and Philando Castile, 32, an unarmed black man who was shot by Minnesota police officers during a routine traffic stop.
Police said the attack on the officers was carried out by 29-year-old Gavin Long of Kansas City, Missouri. Long was shot several times during the attack and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Biden emphasized that Long had shot and killed both white and black officers alike.
"The assassin didn't make any distinction between if he was killing a black officer or a white officer. He just wanted to kill," Biden said.
"You know, I've spoken at too many of these memorials," Biden said, addressing the wives of the fallen officers specifically.
He said he knew the heartache the wives and loved ones feel over their losses cannot be touched now, and said he wanted the loved ones of the fallen officers to know the entire country has been touched by their loss.