Injured Minn. Police Officer Screens Doc about Recovery at Alma Mater

Feb. 19, 2024
Former Waseca Police Officer Arik Matson, was shot in the head during a call in 2020, and he was at Minnesota State University recently to screen a documentary about his recovery.

By Brian Arola

Source The Free Press, Mankato, Minn.

MANKATO, MN — Coming back to his alma mater Sunday felt like a full-circle moment for Arik Matson.

The former Waseca police officer, who sustained a gunshot wound to the head while in the line of duty in January 2020, started his law enforcement journey at Minnesota State University. He graduated from MSU's criminal justice program in 2009.

So it felt fitting to return to campus to hold a screening of the film documenting his recovery, he said.

"Everyone gets to see how far I've come now," he said. "They see how much I had to work to get to this point."

Mankato followed Owatonna, Waseca and Stillwater in hosting "The Weight of the Crown" screenings — the full film is viewable on YouTube. The documentary follows Matson's resilient response to the 2020 shooting, as well as his dream hunting trip to Alaska organized by the Hometown Hero Outdoors nonprofit.

MSU's Office of University Security and the Mankato Department of Public Safety sponsored Sunday's screening. The Matson family and the sponsors considered whether to postpone it in light of the deaths of two police officers and one first responder Sunday morning in Burnsville.

They ultimately decided to hold the event in part as a way to support the families of the Burnsville three, said Megan Matson, Arik's wife, before a moment of silence and prayer prior to the screening.

"In a time of tragedy and grief, what better way is there to come together as a community than to pray over these officers and their families," she said.

Free-will donations at the screening were originally going to support the Hometown Hero nonprofit. After the events in Burnsville, the Matsons, the nonprofit and the sponsors opted to donate any funds to the families of the fallen officers and paramedic instead.

Justin Neumann, a commander with the Mankato Department of Public Safety, helped organize the event. He knows of colleagues who preferred to watch it in private, and others like him who wanted to feel the solidarity of seeing it together in person.

There was no wrong way to do it, he said, especially given the tragedies in Burnsville.

"It makes the viewing of this video much more difficult for some people, but I think it's going to make it much more meaningful as well," he said.

The event could be a way to show how the law enforcement community always supports a wounded officer, said Sandi Schnorenberg, director of MSU security. Before MSU, Schnorenberg had a 30-year career at the Mankato Department of Public Safety. Her husband's career with the department ended after being wounded in the line of duty, while her son currently works for the Blue Earth County Sheriff's Office.

"It's always wonderful to be able to support each other," she said.

A clear majority of Mankato law enforcement officers went to MSU, as Matson did, said Matt DuRose, assistant director of public safety. After the shooting of Matson, Mankato police went over to Waseca to provide support. Two officers in Mankato at the time had previously worked in Waseca.

Those deep connections made it important to bring a screening to Mankato, DuRose said.

The responses at the screenings have been moving, said Megan, who reiterated a message that the Matsons have been saying since they agreed to participate in the documentary: If their story can positively impact one person's life, it's worth it.

Arik hoped to see familiar faces from MSU at the screening, and sure enough at least one professor attended and chatted with him beforehand. Tamara Wilkins, one of the criminal justice faculty at MSU, remembered Matson as an even-keeled, easy-going student.

"The events that unfolded this morning made it all the more special to be able to hug him and see how tall he's gotten," she said, pointing out he must've grown in the 15 years since he was in her class.

Preparing students like Matson for careers in law enforcement is the best part of the job, she said.

"It's very rewarding to know that I get to meet and interact with people who have such a sincere desire to help and to be there and to protect and serve," she said.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola


(c)2024 The Free Press (Mankato, Minn.)

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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