Longtime MPD detective shares insights from working over 1,000 homicides
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Minneapolis Police Lt. Richard Zimmerman is the city’s longest-serving sworn officer, with more than 36 years on the beat. For the past 26 years, Zimmerman has worked with a team of homicide investigators and now oversees the MPD Homicide Unit.
In his first one-on-one interview in more than a decade, Zimmerman told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he was "energized" when he landed a job as a homicide detective and that it still motivates him as much as it did when he entered the Homicide Unit in 1995.
"Yeah, at that time, I tried to pretend that I knew what I was doing but I was really learning on the job," Zimmerman said. "It was a time when we were seeing a record number of homicides in the city and I can remember in July of 1996, less than a year in the Homicide Unit, I had six homicide cases assigned to me and those were just for the month of July."
Zimmerman said he learned from a seasoned homicide chief at the time who would walk out of his office and crack a bullwhip on the floor to announce another new case was being assigned to a detective.
"And I was the new guy and I would pop my head up to see what was going on and I was assigned a lot of cases for popping my head up," Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman said as a detective and now head of the Homicide Unit, he’s been involved in more than 1,000 homicide cases, but a triple-murder in 1996 still haunts him to this day because of the violent, brutal nature of the attack on the three victims.
"He brought all three victims into the basement of a townhome and demanded they tell him where his estranged girlfriend was living, and he did it at knifepoint but they wouldn’t tell him," Zimmerman said. "And the crime scene was difficult and … I don’t know, you know, some cases just stay with you."
Zimmerman said it’s the connection he feels with the victims’ families that makes him continue working homicide cases, even though he was eligible for retirement 13 years ago.
"You have to care about the victims because it really is your main job and you just have to care," Zimmerman said. "If you don’t care, you are not going to last here and you do lose sleep when you have a fresh case because, you know, it weighs on you."