Fallen Burnsville first responders honored during public service memorial

Fallen Burnsville first responders honored during public service memorial

Fallen Burnsville first responders honored during public service memorial

Thousands of people from across the state came together on Wednesday to honor the three first responders killed in Burnsville earlier this month.

A spokesperson for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension shared that between the two churches, over 10,000 people attended in person. Over 23,000 people watched the service on Grace Church’s website and YouTube channel.

Police officers Paul Elmstrand and Matthew Ruge, as well as firefighter paramedic Adam Finseth, were remembered during a public memorial service at Grace Church in Eden Prairie.

As previously reported by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, Elmstrand, Ruge and Finseth were fatally shot while responding to a report of a sexual assault on the morning of Sunday, Feb. 18. The suspect, Shannon Gooden, was later found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials say.

Another officer, Sgt. Adam Medlicott, was briefly hospitalized but is recovering back home.

RELATED: BCA: Suspect fired more than 100 rounds in Burnsville shooting that killed 3 first responders

Trying to rewatch the live stream on a mobile device? Click HERE to access the video.

Medlicott was one of several speakers during Wednesday’s ceremony.

“Elmstrand, Ruge, Finseth … we were there for seven children,” Medlicott said. “Nothing could be more honorable. Rest easy, brothers.”

He also thanked Finseth for saving his life.

“I saw you run into the fire to save me and my guys. You’re the bravest person I’ve ever known, I’ll be forever thankful.”

RELATED: Thousands pay respects to fallen officers, firefighter/paramedic in Burnsville

Officer Pete Mueller also talked, highlighting Ruge’s final moments trying to save others on the SWAT team.

“When the unthinkable happened, Matt brought his partner, Paul, to safety,” Mueller said. “Although he was hurt himself, Ruge repeatedly risked his life to save our friend. In doing so, Matt made the ultimate sacrifice.”

One of Ruge’s family members, Michael Ruge, said, “It’s really hard, and we are trying to wrap our heads around what happened. It makes no sense, it’s confusing, it’s really really hard, and it’s really painful.”

“Their bravery and willingness to put themselves before others is why the word ‘hero’ is synonymous with each of their names,” Burnsville Police Chief Tanya Schwartz said.

There was laughter and a lot of tears as colleagues shared memories of the three men on Wednesday. As the community continues to mourn, Schwartz highlighted the path forward and recognized that it won’t be easy.

“We may wear different uniforms, but together, we will get through the difficult phase ahead,” Schwartz said.

Final call for Burnsville first responders

Final call for Burnsville first responders

The public also learned more about each of the first responders.

Ruge was remembered for his compassion, empathy and calm demeanor.

“It was impossible not to love Ruge,” Mueller said. “He was smart, quick-witted, self-deprecating, humble, and last year I watched Matt become a trusted resource for his partners, both old and new.”

It was revealed that Elmstrand had learned just weeks earlier that he’d been selected to join the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association to help honor fallen officers.

“He was so excited and proud to be able to be a part of the LEMA Honor Guard,” Burnsville Police Deputy Chief Matt Smith said. “I’m told he would often polish his boots and practice formations and salutes in the family living room.”

Finseth was remembered for his dedication to taking care of others who put themselves in danger.

“Adam, I know you’re up there in heaven probably thinking this is all too much,” Burnsville Fire Captain Brandon Johannsen said. “Well brother, you deserve it. You were the best of us.”

As a final call concluded in honor of the three men, the final phrase not only highlighted what they gave but also served as a charge for the community to ensure the memories of these heroes live on.

“Their sacrifice will not be forgotten.”

RELATED: Authorities provide update on public safety memorial service, procession route for fallen Burnsville police officers, paramedic

Preparations for the 11 a.m. service began early Wednesday morning, as thousands of firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement were throughout the church, with vehicles lined up outside the church. Between first responders, family, friends and even strangers, the church filled up quickly.

The funeral was followed by a procession that wound through the City of Burnsville.

As reported on Tuesday by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, Minnesota organization Backing the Blue Line crafted roses to honor the lives of the first responders and handed out 4,000 flowers to show their support for the community. Each flower had a touch of blue for Ruge and Elmstrand and a spray of red to honor Finseth.

Many people also showed law enforcement, firefighters and paramedic communities their support by lining the route for the procession Wednesday afternoon. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, 1,468 vehicles participated in the procession.

Burnsville’s city offices and facilities were closed Wednesday, including City Hall, the Ames Center, Birnamwood Golf Course, Burnsville Maintenance Facility, the police station and fire stations one and two. The Burnsville Ice Center will be closed until 7 p.m.

City officials say normal operations at all city offices in Burnsville will resume on Thursday. Schools in Burnsville, Eagan and Savage were also closed on Wednesday.