Watch Memorial Service to Honor Slain Minn. Police Officers, Medic

Feb. 28, 2024
Thousands gathered at a service for Burnsville Police Officers Paul Elmstrand and Matthew Ruge, and Firefighter/Paramedic Adam Finseth, who were shot and killed during a Feb. 18 standoff.

By Mara H. Gottfried and Nick Ferraro

Source Pioneer Press

On a day when 10,000 people gathered to say good-bye to two Burnsville police officers and a firefighter, a sergeant injured in the same incident addressed his fallen colleagues: “Elmstrand, Ruge, Finseth, we were there for seven children. Nothing could be more honorable. Rest easy, brothers.”

The first responders were shot after they responded to a 911 call in Burnsville on Feb. 18. A man had barricaded himself in a home with seven children. As officers tried to convince him to surrender peacefully, he opened fire “without warning,” authorities have said.


A procession from Grace Church in Eden Prairie started about 2:30 p.m. and is heading to Burnsville. The procession route can be viewed on Canva.

An estimated 10,000 people gathered at Grace Church and more than 300 people at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, where a live broadcast was played. There were more than 20,000 views of the livestream.

The crowd was there to “grieve the loss and honor the memories” of Officers Paul Elmstrand and Matthew Ruge, and Firefighter/Paramedic Adam Finseth, said Chaplain Mark Patrick.

‘Standing with them on their final call’

Burnsville Sgt. Medlicott supervised both Ruge and Elmstrand on the night shift “and was standing with them on their final call.”

He’d been one of Elmstrand’s field training officers and “although I quickly realized how smart and thoughtful Paul was, he still had his moments,” Medlicott said.

One day they were dispatched to a report of an in-progress theft at Macy’s. They pulled up and saw a vehicle idling in front of the main entrance.

“Excitedly, Paul yells, ‘Look it’s the go-away vehicle!’,” Medlicott recounted.

He said he “looked at him in disbelief for a moment before saying, ‘It’s getaway car, Paul.’”

“It seemed like that story would come up every couple of weeks and we would have a good laugh again,” Medlicott said.

Elmstrand “was not a shy person,” Medlicott said. “Many times he would bust into my office uninvited, sit down and make himself at home just to talk or pick my brain on something.”

He was recently talking about taking the test for an open sergeant position and Medlicott said he would have been excellent in the role.

“I’ll miss our midnight talks, Paul,” he said.

Medlicott said he remembered the first call he went on with Ruge, who’d just completed field training. They were dispatched to a young woman who was to start an addiction program that day and a van was waiting outside to take her to the facility, but she sat down in a closet and was refusing to leave.

“I watched Matt and the new officer that I was training work through this call for a call for awhile and it was a disaster,” Medlicott said. “They didn’t know what to say or how to say it. And I remember Matt looking back at me with a face that said, ‘I don’t know what else to do.’”

Medlicott stepped in and talked the young woman out of the house and into the van for treatment. Ruge thanked him, saying, “Man, I really (expletive) that one up,” Medlicott recalled.

“Like any other cop, I said back to him, ‘Yeah, you really did,’” Medlicott said to laughter. “But I also told him that he was young and he was new to the profession. … ‘You’ll learn, you’ll grow, you’ll get a lot better.’”

On their last call, Medlicott stood next to Ruge, “but now it was Matt that was doing all the talking. … I believed in him as a crisis negotiator. And everyone here should know, he was doing an amazing job of it. You can’t reason with evil. You didn’t (expletive) this one up, Matt.”

“I was fortunate enough to watch both of these officers go full circle from two wide eyed, excited new cops – one who didn’t know it was called a getaway car and another who didn’t know how to talk to someone in crisis -– to an officer who knew the job so well he was ready to promote and another who had just taken over a scene for multiple hours as a crisis negotiator.”

Medlicott said he didn’t know Finseth as well as the two officers, but he said, addressing the fallen firefighter/paramedic, “I saw you run into the line of fire to save me and my guys. You are the bravest person I’ve ever known. I will be forever thankful.”

‘Brave men’

Since Feb. 18, Burnsville Police Chief Tanya Schwartz said she has seen the worst and the best in people.

“These brave men took an oath to keep the community safe and that’s exactly what they did” the morning they were killed, she said.

Burnsville Deputy Police Chief Matt Smith told the crowd he knows it’s cliché, but he also said it’s true: “These three men really were the nicest people.”

Played during the memorial service was the song, “Officer Down,” by Hannah Ellis. Written about Ellis’ cousin, officer Daniel Ellis, who was killed in the line of duty, from his wife’s perspective, the song includes the lyrics: “They called me and told me it’s my officer down. And I talked to you and begged you, but you didn’t come back around. Oh, I kissed you goodbye a thousand times. But never like I’m doing right now. Oh, with twenty-one shots going up I wish you had more time with us. ‘Cause thirty-three years ain’t enough for the officer down.”

Caskets with remembrances of the fallen inside were brought into the church around 10:15 a.m. They were each draped with an American flag. At the end of the service, first responders folded the flags. “Amazing Grace” played.

The families of the fallen first responders “are grateful for your presence here today” for those in person, in Burnsville and watching the livestream elsewhere, Patrick said.

People began ushering out of Grace Church about 1:15 p.m. for honors to be held outside the church. Three helicopters — from the Minnesota State Patrol, Life Link and North Memorial Health Air Care — flew overhead and there was a 21-gun salute from the roof of the church.

At the main entrance of Grace Church, firefighters with the Burnsville and Savage fire departments used ladder trucks to raise a large U.S. flag over Mitchell Road in Eden Prairie. Law enforcement and other emergency workers walked in droves under the flag to file into the church.

Just after 7:30 a.m., two military personnel carried U.S. and Minnesota flags onto the altar. Large portraits of Elmstrand, Ruge, and Finseth were propped up on the church altar, which is adorned with red and white flowers. There is firefighter gear on the altar.

Small American flags were in the ground around the large church.

Dozens of charter buses, shuttles and golf carts brought attendees to the church, which has an auditorium that seats about 4,300 for law enforcement and other first-responders. Overflow seating with large TVs were in place throughout the church.

Burnsville police and firefighters and their families filed into the church just after 9:30 a.m. Busloads of city employees soon arrived.

Dozens of bundled members of the Minnesota Patriot Guard lined a sidewalk around the church, holding flags and telling officers, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

The four-page service program shows an American flag on the front and photos of Elmstrand, Ruge and Finseth on the inside. It lists a welcome and invocation by Chaplain Mark Patrick, and speakers being Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz and Medlicott. Those giving eulogies include Burnsville Police Chief Tanya Schwartz and Deputy Chief Matt Smith, as well as Burnsville Fire Chief B.J. Jungmann.

Grace Church filled to capacity before the service began and people were asked to watch the service on the live broadcast.

Law enforcement was seen from around Minnesota, along with Wisconsin, Michigan, New York and South Dakota.

As people walked into Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville Wednesday morning, four West St. Paul police officers greeted them just inside the doors. A woman arrived, shook the hands of law enforcement and other first responders, and offered her thanks to them.

On a table just inside the church’s doors, a framed sign with an American flag printed on the background said, “Honoring Matthew Henke Ruge, Feb. 2, 1997-Feb.18, 2024. Adam Loren Finseth, March 12, 1983-Feb. 18, 2024. Paul Henrik Elmstrand, Dec. 29, 1996-Feb. 18, 2024.”

A poster made by a child on Feb. 18 was on display with the handwritten message of: “We (heart symbol) the BFD and BPD.” Next to it was a large American flag comprised of red, white and blue flowers.

The Minnesota EMS Honor Guard, as well as honor guard members from the Ramsey County sheriff’s office and Rochester, Minn., police stood at attention inside Prince of Peace.

Large photos of Ruge, Finseth and Elmstrand were also on display at the front of Prince of Peace’s sanctuary, near candles and flowers.

As Kirstin Hart walked up to Prince of Peace, she said she knew Elmstrand from the University of Northwestern, where they’d both been both students.

“With Paul being a Christian, I feel like I have a lot of hope – I know that he knew Jesus,” she said. “But I also am very sad for his family and feeling for his wife and kids, and the other officer and firefighter also.”

Inez Bergquist said she went to Prince of Peace Wednesday because she lives in Eagan “and we really feel fellowship with the towns around us. This is like a big small town.”

A man who lives north of St. Paul said he wanted to pay his respects because, “I respect what they do for their line of work. They try to save others and that’s the ultimate sacrifice.”

Traffic delays and congestion should be expected throughout Eden Prairie most of today, especially near Grace Church, according to the city.

The Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191 canceled school for today, saying it was “due to planned road closures and expected impacts to transportation throughout the area.” In addition, all District 191 programs and facilities will be closed to the public and after-school athletics and activities are canceled.


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