The town of Aitkin was the center of mourning for thousands of Minnesotans who attended the funeral of sheriff's deputy Steven Sandberg.
According to FOX 9, an estimated 3,000 people – most of them police officers from Minnesota and representatives from other states – descended on Aitkin High School to pay their respects to the fallen police officer, who was fatally shot by a suspect at St. Cloud Hospital on Sunday.
A graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, Sandberg was a 24-year veteran with the Aitkin County Sheriff's Office, and leaves behind wife Kristi and daughter Cassandra, who paid a loving tribute to her father.
"If there's one message I know my dad would want me to relay to you all today, it's to show how strong and loving you are," live footage from the funeral showed Cassandra Sandberg telling the congregation. "Because to the world you might be just one person, but to one person, you might be their world."
Aitkin County Sheriff Scott Turner made several references to Sandberg's badge number, 203, and praised his Deputy's commitment to helping people.
"He had a genuine interest and concern for the people he encountered in his personal and professional life," he said. "With Steve, I think it was always about helping people, there were never any airs about 203: He was, as he would often say, 'the real deal'.
"As proud as he was to be a cop, he never let that became his life's identity, rather he let the content of his character define who he was and help determine the kind of officer he became."
Flags were flown at half-staff at state and federal buildings across Minnesota, at the order of Gov. Mark Dayton, who was among those in attendance Friday.
"The State of Minnesota, with its deepest gratitude, recognizes Deputy Sandberg for his dedicated service to, and sacrifice for, his fellow citizens of Minnesota," he said in his announcement. "The thoughts and prayers of Minnesotans are with his family, friends, and all who knew him."
Deputy Sandberg's death
Deputy 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.
A hospital security guard used a Taser to subdue Hammond. Shortly after, Hammond become unresponsive and died, despite lifesaving efforts, officials note.