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Thousands Honor Fallen Minn. Officer

Officers in uniform by the thousands joined other mourners Wednesday and filled the sanctuary and the grounds outside a West St. Paul church and remembered Scott Patrick, the Mendota Heights police officer who was gunned down at a traffic stop one week ago.

The funeral for the 47-year-old husband and father of two girls at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church was followed by an 8-mile procession to Patrick's final resting place, Acacia Park Cemetery in Mendota Heights. He was laid to rest four and half hours after the funeral began.

"Why are there so many people?" a little girl along the route asked her father as squad car after squad car passed. "They're all his friends," he responded.

At the cemetery, wave after wave of officers in black, blue and khaki marched in formation to the grave site. A horse-drawn caisson carrying Patrick's body was followed by a riderless horse. As a limousine carrying the officer's family drove through the winding cemetery roads, two girls opened the back windows and made hand signals symbolizing love.

Among the dignitaries who entered St. Stephen's earlier to the strains of Aaron Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" were Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Moments later, Patrick's casket was wheeled to the front of the sanctuary, covered with a light-colored draping. As family members followed behind and were seated in pews closest to their fallen loved one, organist Gerrit Willem Lamain played the specially composed "A Scott Patrick Memorial Intrada."

Officers from around Minnesota and beyond attended the service, which included eulogies from Patrick's boss, Chief Mike Aschenbrener, fellow officers Robert Lambert and John Larrive, brother Mike Brue and sister-in-law Jolene Josephson.

"Scott impacted many people on the path of life, as evidenced by the outpouring" since his death, Aschenbrener said.

Patrick came from the Shakopee Police Department and "moved home to Mendota Heights," the chief said. "He knew where he wanted to be and worked hard to get there."

Lambert, in a voice shaking with emotion, imaged Patrick's reaction to such an outpouring. "He'd put his arm around me, have a smirk on his face, a twinkle in his eye. 'Hey, not bad for a Humboldt grad, eh, cadet?' "

Brue said that in the midst of his brother's "senseless, horrific" death, he and others are "left to consider what might have been" for Patrick and his family.

"Scott had the courage to be true to himself," Brue continued. "Only 47, when his life ended in the line of duty, he already realized a lot of dreams in life for himself and his family. ... This big-picture problem solver was living a lot of his dream, then in an instant he is gone."

Musical selections during the service ranged from the traditional "Amazing Grace" to "Can't Help Falling in Love," an Elvis Presley ballad, both sung by Tim Mahoney and backed by his acoustic guitar.

Upon the service concluding and amid the recessional hymn "Be Thou My Vision," Patrick's immediate and extended family filed out first, with others in the sanctuary following. As each stepped into the sunlight, attendants handed out blue flowers, a nod to the color of law enforcement.

Uniformed officers, white-gloved hands taking hold, escorted the flag-draped casket out of the church. It moved past saluting law officers, with his wife and daughters close behind, and into the waiting hearse.

The Patrick family's gratitude was expressed on the back of the service's program: "This is a difficult time for our family, our law enforcement family and the community. ... We realize how truly blessed we are to have such wonderful friends during times like this. Your expressions of sympathy will never be forgotten," it reads in part.

Earlier in the morning, squad cars were lined up along many blocks near the church, and a kilted bagpiper strode along a sidewalk ahead of the services in the Charlton Street church, about 1 1/2 miles south of where Patrick was mortally wounded.

Outside the church, Gail Bergeron arrived and shared a long embrace with Scott's wife, Michelle Patrick. Bergeron's husband, Maplewood Police Sgt. Joe Bergeron, was killed in the line of duty four years ago.

Soon after, Michelle Patrick took hold of her daughters' hands and entered the church. Uniformed officers lined the path to the door, and tiny American flags at the feet helped show the way.

"We've been doing these far too often and for too many years," Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson, honor guard commander for the Law Enforcement Memorial Association, said to reporters as the gathering grew by the hundreds around him.

Procession route

This first wave in the slow-rolling procession was for visiting officers, the next for Patrick's family and those close to him. Their destination was Patrick's burial plot, where a Mendota Heights squad car stood watch as police officials and news media went about their duties.

The first procession arrived and crossed under a huge American flag held aloft by a pair of firetruck ladders. From within the cemetery, a bell tolled 272 times, once for each Minnesota peace officer killed in line of duty.

Along the procession route with a full-size American flag was Ashley Karlson, 26, joined by her mother, cousins and aunts.

"I wanted to pay my respects for his help," Karlson said. Six days before the shooting, Patrick responded to her call of somebody trespassing in her yard. He advised her on how to get an order for protection. "He was a very, very nice man," she said.

Rebecca Hovey, 22, was out with homemade signs and balloons along with her friend and her friend's family on Butler Avenue for the procession.

"Officer Patrick put his life on the line every day," Hovey said. "He shows one of the reasons why I wanted to join the police force myself." On the corner of Butler Avenue and Charlton Street, Carolyn Spencer gathered with others to support the Patrick family. Spencer understands well the perils of being a police officer. Her son is on the St. Paul police force.

"As a mom, you don't want your son put in harm's way," she said, but understand that danger comes with the job.

Angeleah Carrion, who works as an emergency medical technician for the St. Paul Fire Department, was in uniform on Charlton near Butler to pay her respects.

"We are all kind of a community," Carrion said of emergency responders. "We are all brothers and sisters in some kind of way. It hits home when something like this happens."

Accused gunman in hospital

Patrick, 47, was shot and killed July 30 while making a traffic stop on Dodd Road near Smith Avenue in West St. Paul.

Brian Fitch Sr., a 39-year-old career criminal, is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of the 19-year veteran of the Mendota Heights force as Patrick approached the rear of the suspect's car on what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop.

Fitch remains at Regions Hospital after being shot numerous times by police during a shootout leading up to his capture in St. Paul that evening. He's also charged in that confrontation with three counts of first-degree attempted murder, three counts of dangerous-weapon-drive-by shooting, three counts of second-degree assault and one count of possession of a pistol or assault weapon.

Kelly Lee Hardy, a woman who was in the SUV with him at the time of the shootout with police, also was wounded and was taken to Regions with noncritical injuries.

Star Tribune staff writers Emma Nelson, Pat Pheifer and Nicole Norfleet contributed to this report.

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