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Thousands expected at memorial for slain Minn. first responders

Burnsville officials prepare for an “unprecedented attendance” at the service for two police officers and a firefighter/medic killed on Feb. 18


Photos of Burnsville police officers, from left, Paul Elmstrand, Matthew Ruge and Firefighter/paramedic Adam Finseth.

Mara H. Gottfried / Pioneer Press

By Mara H. Gottfried
Pioneer Press

BURNSVILLE, Minn. — A memorial service for “the darkest day” in Burnsville police and fire department history is expected to draw thousands of people and officials asked the public on Monday to consider other viewing options.

Grace Church will provide a live broadcast on YouTube of the 11 a.m. Wednesday memorial service in Eden Prairie for Burnsville officers Matthew Ruge and Paul Elmstrand, both 27, and Burnsville firefighter/paramedic Adam Finseth, 40.

Prince of Peace Lutheran Church will open their doors in Burnsville as a place where people can gather and watch the livestream together. The public is also encouraged to line the procession route after the service, which will go from Grace Church to Burnsville, past Burnsville Fire Station No. 2, the Burnsville police station and Prince of Peace Church. The route can be viewed online here.

“Unprecedented attendance” is expected for the memorial service at Grace Church, said Howie Padilla, Minnesota Department of Public Safety spokesman. At the families’ wishes, family and public safety personnel will be seated first.

Grace Church seats thousands, but “you have to understand how many law enforcement (agencies) … from across the country are reaching out to us, how many thousands of firefighters and … how many paramedics are reaching out to us wanting to show love,” Padilla said. “… Thousands of seats are being taken up right away.”

‘Worlds were completely shattered’

A man opened fire on Feb. 18 as police were negotiating with him after responding to his residence regarding an alleged sexual assault, according to a Minnesota Bureau Criminal Apprehension search warrant. He barricaded himself in the home with seven children, the BCA has said.

“To say that it’s been an extremely difficult week is an understatement,” Burnsville Police Chief Tanya Schwartz said Monday, her first time speaking at a press conference since the day of the killings. “On Feb. 18, our worlds were completely shattered. It was the darkest day in our police and fire department history and it is still nearly impossible for us to comprehend.”

Also indescribable “is the love and the solidarity that has surrounded us,” Schwartz said. “From the countless messages of condolences to the heartfelt gestures of kindness, your outpouring of support has been nothing less than overwhelming.”

Burnsville Fire Chief B.J. Jungmann asked that people continue to keep the families of Finseth, Elmstrand and Ruge in their thoughts and prayers “as they are going through the hardest times of their life right now.”

Schwartz also requested prayers for the “full recovery and healing” of Burnsville Sgt. Adam Medlicott, also shot by the gunman. He was released from the hospital a week ago and continues to recover.

Two police squads and an ambulance have been parked in front of Burnsville City Hall, and are covered with flowers, balloons, cards and other mementos that people have brought to them.

“In our own ways, and in our own times, we come here to feel connected to Matt and Adam and Paul,” Schwartz said. “We pray here and we cry, and we embrace and we are trying to heal our broken hearts in this space.”

Burnsville City Hall will be closed on Wednesday, to allow staff to honor their colleagues, and city services will resume Thursday. Residents can visit any Dakota County Service Center for early voting services.

The Dakota County Sheriff’s Office will close its gun permit and civil windows on Wednesday, reopening Thursday, also to allow staff to attend the memorial service.

Burnsville officers and firefighter memorial

Live video and audio of the 11 a.m. Wednesday‘s memorial service will be available at and

Doors will open at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 13801 Fairview Drive in Burnsville.

The procession route can be viewed on the city of Burnsville’s website,

Traffic delays and congestion should be expected around Grace Church, 9301 Eden Prairie Road in Eden Prairie. For members of the public who want to attempt to attend the memorial service in person, overflow parking and bus transportation will be provided at Miller Park and Staring Lake Park, both in Eden Prairie, starting at 9 a.m. and until the church is at capacity.

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