Vigil for Peace Officer Memorial Day underway at the Minnesota Capitol

Vigil for Peace Officer Memorial Day underway at the Minnesota Capitol

Vigil for Peace Officer Memorial Day underway at the Minnesota Capitol

Police officers from across Minnesota are standing in silent vigil for 24 hours at the Minnesota Capitol on Wednesday as part of the state’s ceremonies for Peace Officer Memorial Day.

In all, 306 officers have died in the line of duty in Minnesota.

A service held at the Capitol in St. Paul to honor those fallen officers coincided with a ceremony in Washington, D.C., to honor officers from across the country. The events are part of National Police Week.

“I want to begin tonight this evening’s service by recognizing the most important people in attendance tonight: our survivors,” said Brian Hubbard, president of the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association.

Hubbard asked everyone to never forget by keeping those lost — and the survivors — in their thoughts.

“I’d like to encourage you to be reflective or prayerful, as you’re so inclined, of our fallen heroes and those loved ones and partners that have been left behind,” Hubbard said.

Also sharing Wednesday was Gov. Tim Walz, highlighting the heightened violence against law enforcement in recent years.

“Each and every one of these heroes — a father, a brother, a son, a husband — [meant] the world to their family and community,” Walz said.

This year alone, the names of 282 officers killed in the line of duty were added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial — those names are joining the more than 24,000 names that are already etched there.

Of those new names, five are very special to those in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin — Pope County Sheriff’s Deputy Josh Owen, Fargo Police Officer Jake Wallin, St. Croix County deputy Katie Leising, Chetek Police Officer Emily Breidenbach and Cameron Police Officer Hunter Scheel. All five were fatally shot in the line of duty between April and July of last year.

“The violence towards public safety workers, it’s at an unprecedented level,” said Jim Mortenson, executive director for Minnesota’s largest public safety labor union, Law Enforcement Labor Services.

“Anytime we lose one of our own, it’s an absolute tragedy,” Mortenson added.

While at the memorial, Mortenson took pictures as Deputy Owen’s wreath was laid. Then, in support, he then sent them to Owen’s wife.

“She’s out in Washington, D.C., right now for Police Week, as her husband’s name is getting added to the wall at the law enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C.,” Mortenson said.

State and U.S. flags have been ordered by the governors of both Minnesota and Wisconsin to fly at half-staff at all state buildings on Wednesday from sunrise until sunset. Businesses, organizations and community members are also encouraged to lower their flags.

Fallen Officer Memorial