Bills honor 2 fallen Minnesota heroes with memorial highways

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Two Minnesota highways would soon be named after two of the state's fallen heroes.

The House unanimously passed two separate bills that will honor Nicholas Spehar, a Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan, and North St. Paul police officer Richard Crittenden, who died while responding to a domestic dispute call, KARE 11 reports.

Under the bill, Highway 8 from Forest Lake through Chisago City – Spehar's hometown – will be renamed “Nicholas Patrick Spehar Memorial Highway,” the Session Daily says. Spehar was a highly-decorated Navy SEAL, killed after his helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan in August of 2011, KARE reports. He was on his third deployment, and one of 17 SEALs killed in the attack.

“This young man's service touched our community,” said Rep. Bob Barrett, R-Lindstrom, of Spehar. Barrett is the sponsor of the House bill. The Senate has not yet had a full vote on the measure.

At the time, the Star Tribune said the attack – which killed 30 U.S. troops, seven Afghan commandos, and an interpreter – was the deadliest single-day loss for U.S. forces since the war in Afghanistan began. The CH-47 Chinook helicopter they were in was shot down in the country's Tangi Valley by what appeared to be a rocket-propelled grenade launched by Taliban forces.

Spehar was described to the paper as a "quiet leader." He was 24 at the time of his death.

Highway 36 within the borders of North St. Paul would become “Officer Richard Crittenden Memorial Highway” under another bill passed by the House. It's the same stretch of road he often patrolled while on duty, the Session Daily notes.

According to his Officer Down memorial page, Crittenden was shot and killed after responding to a domestic disturbance call on a September morning in 2009 – and the first North St. Paul officer killed in the line of duty. A suspect attempted to attack a female on the scene, and Crittenden was one of two officers to step in. The suspect gained control of Crittenden's firearm and fatally shot the officer.

An official with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension told MPR it was a "very intense, and very violent battle."

The department unveiled a memorial for Crittenden a year after his death.

Crittenden had served with the North St. Paul police department for nine years, and the Wabasha County Sheriff's Department before that. He also served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam. He died at the age of 57.

The bill to honor Crittenden was previously passed by the Senate, then amended and passed by the House – so the Senate will need to re-vote.

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