Hundreds attend vigil for slain Aitkin County investigator Steven Sandberg


Hundreds of people turned out for a candlelight vigil in Aitkin Monday evening to remember Aitkin County Sheriff's Deputy Steven Sandberg, who was fatally shot early Sunday morning at St. Cloud Hospital.

They lined the streets leading into town as a law enforcement procession escorted Sandberg's body back home from the Ramsey County medical examiner's office in St. Paul.

Sandberg, 60, was monitoring the welfare of a suspect who was a patient at the hospital when the incident occurred around 5:15 a.m. Sunday, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension says.

The suspect – identified as 50-year-old Danny Hammond – got out of his hospital bed and started an altercation with Sandberg, in which he gained control of Sandberg’s weapon and shot him, the BCA says.

The vigil took place outside United Methodist Church, which Sandberg attended.

“You are willing to give your whole life for what you are doing, and indeed Steve showed us what that meant,” said a pastor at the church, according to WCCO.

Sandberg's funeral will be held on Friday in Aitkin, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Details will be announced in the next few days.

Sandberg was a 24-year veteran with the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office, and leaves behind a wife and daughter, who is in college. He was a 1976 graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, the Forum News Service says.

“His family's been neighbors of ours for years,” Richard and Marilyn Hesch, who also went to church with Sandberg, told FOX 9. “It's going to be a tough one, especially for a small community like this.”

Friends of Sandberg described him as a well-respected, all-American good guy and a wonderful father who put his family first, KARE 11 reports.

"Part of being a good police officer is loving people, and he did that, he embodied that," Pastor Dawn Houser of United Methodist Church told KARE 11. "He was a good dad, he was a good husband, he was a good neighbor, he was a good parishioner in the church, and this is going to be devastating to his family."

Gov. Mark Dayton released a statement Sunday afternoon, saying he “deplored” the senseless killing of Sandberg.

“On behalf of all Minnesotans, I extend my deepest condolences to his family,” said Dayton. “This tragedy reminds us that Minnesota’s law enforcement officers risk their lives every day and night to keep us safe.”

Officials send their condolences

"The only thing I can offer is I'd hope everyone can keep investigator Sandberg's wife and daughter in your thoughts and prayers in the coming days," Aitkin County Sheriff Scott Turner said Sunday, according to the St. Cloud Times.

The Aitkin County Sheriff's Department changed its Facebook cover photo to black, and the flags outside the Aitkin County Courthouse were flying at half staff by Sunday afternoon.

Officials throughout the state and country have shared their condolences on social media:

Suspect also died

After Sandberg was shot, a hospital security guard used a Taser to subdue Hammond. Shortly after, Hammond become unresponsive and died, despite lifesaving efforts, the BCA notes.

Hammond, who was the suspect in a domestic incident, was being treated for medical reasons at the hospital. The deputy was there to monitor the suspect at the request of St. Cloud Hospital.

He was not under arrest and was not in handcuffs at the time, the Forum News Service says.

Hammond had been convicted on several felony crimes committed in Aitkin County, according to the Forum News Service, including escaping from custody and terroristic threats in 1990, and burglary in 1989.

The incident was confined to the suspect’s hospital room, the BCA says. No other patients or personnel were injured.

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