Officer Jim Sackett: A tribute 50 years in the making

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It's been 50 years to the day since St. Paul Police Officer Jim Sackett was killed in the line of duty on May 22, 1970. For his wife, Jeanette, it's like he just walked out the door yesterday.

"I can't let Jim go," she says of the father of her four children. "I gotta make sure he's remembered. It's been 50 years and I can't believe it."

Jeanette and her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids celebrated the life of Jim Sackett on the front lawn of the family home near Lake Phalen in St. Paul. It's where he kissed his wife and young kids goodbye before he returned to his first night back at work after the birth of their fourth child.

Jeanette recently brought out Jim's badge and hat he was wearing the night he was shot, plus a flag that adorned the military veteran's casket. She hadn't had the courage to touch many of those items in 50 years.

"I just sobbed because I just think exactly 50 years ago today that I said goodbye," she told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

Until the coronavirus pandemic hit, the St. Paul Police Department planned a big memorial service in honor of the Sackett family. Instead, the police department brought the memorial to the Sackett family.

A procession of squad cars from St. Paul Police, Minnesota State Patrol, Minneapolis Police, Washington County Sheriff's Office and others drove by the Sackett house with lights flashing. St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell and Sackett's partner the night he was shot, Glen Kothe, delivered 50 blue roses to Jeanette.

50 years later, assassinated St. Paul Officer Jim Sackett remains a hero

"Our department has not forgotten … and we will never forget," Axtell told her. Then, another surprise.

"We had a badge made up of Jim's badge number 450 we would like to present it to you so you and your family will have that for the rest of time as well," Axtell said.

The badge has a black band across it to signify he made the ultimate sacrifice.

Among those at the Sackett house was Dan Bostrom, a former St. Paul officer and city council member who was among the first to arrive on the scene of the shooting just after midnight. Sackett and Kothe were responding to a fake emergency call about a woman needing help giving birth. It was actually a trap to lure officers to the intersection of Hague and Victoria.

"It becomes a defining moment you never forget and you'll carry it with you forever," Bostrom said. "It was such a tragedy for a fine young man."

The killers of Sackett disappeared into the night in 1970 and the case went dormant over the years. A 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigation turned up new information from a key witness in 1994. The St. Paul Police Cold Case Unit reopened the investigation and eventually arrested two men in 2005. They were tried and convicted in separate trials in 2006.

Jeanette doesn't focus on what happened to her husband or the men who did it. Instead, she cherishes Jim's legacy.

"I'm so proud of what Jim left behind. I'm proud of our children, grandkids and now great-grandchildren."