Officer Matthew Ruge honored at vigil in Wabasha on Wednesday evening

Officer Matthew Ruge honored at vigil in Wabasha on Wednesday evening

Officer Matthew Ruge honored at vigil in Wabasha on Wednesday evening

Burnsville officer Matthew Ruge was honored at a vigil Wednesday evening in Wabasha — where he went to high school.

Ruge, officer Paul Elmstrand and firefighter/paramedic Adam Finseth were fatally shot while responding to a domestic call Sunday morning.

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“When you reflect upon it, you just feel lucky that you got to cross paths with them,” Jim Freihammer, former Wabasha-Kellogg school district superintendent, said.

In the Wabasha-Kellogg school district full of hundreds, Ruge stood out.
“What made him remarkable was like the things that we’re striving for all of our young people to have, which is kindness, friendliness and just really a good all-around person,” Freihammer said.

The honors student graduated from the high school in 2015.

He went to Minnesota State University in Mankato and he finished a law enforcement program in 2018.

Then, he joined the Burnsville Police Department two years later.

“I can see him wanting to put himself out there to defuse the most extreme situations,” Freihammer said.

That’s what he was faced with on Sunday.

Officer Ruge was one of three Burnsville first responders who were killed responding to a domestic call.

“Sad and then you’re angry,” Freihammer reacted.

Ruge was also on the all-state golf team in high school.

“One word I can think of is integrity,” Jerry Dalen, Ruge’s former golf coach, said. “Something we teach and preach, but for Matt, it was something he does every day.”

Those memories are now what this community is holding onto as they plan to honor Ruge’s life at a vigil in the heart of the city.

“I plan to bring up a white tee with a white golf ball and that’ll be my addition to the flower tribute,” Dalen said.

The Wabasha community watched Ruge’s childhood dream become a reality, only to see that dream cut tragically short.

“We’re just losing a person that was going to continue to make a difference,” Freihammer said. “He was going to make the world better.”

“He’s an incredible young man,” Lori Patrow, who knew Ruge, said at the vigil. “[He] will not be forgotten.”

From police officers, sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, to paramedics and the many, many community members, it was clear from the turnout Wednesday night how much Ruge, and his sacrifice, means to his hometown.

“It’s a tragedy of course… it’s rough,” said Logan, a close friend of Ruge.

Logan also made sure to share a story or two to bring light to the event and highlight Ruge’s character. He shared a time when they got stranded on a pontoon not far from shore – Logan said when it happened, Ruge had no hesitation and jumped into the water with a rope to swim them back to shore.

“He was friend to most of us, and I know to me he was a brother, and I’m sure he was to quite a few of you and he will be missed, so rest easy brother,” Logan said.

Prayers were shared by a faith leader in the church that Ruge went to growing up. To end the vigil, a burning lantern was released into the air in Ruge’s memory.

The public still has an opportunity to honor and pay their respects – all three first responders will have a public funeral service next week.