Perhaps several thousand mourners streamed into St. Stephan's Lutheran Church on Tuesday night during a six-hour visitation to offer friends and family condolences over the loss of Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick, who was killed in the line of duty last week.
Patrick's wife – his high school sweetheart – and two teenage daughters are still reeling as thousands prepare to participate in a 11 a.m. funeral service and a law enforcement procession today.
“They’re really trying to get a grip on it,” Mike Brue, Patrick’s half-brother, told KSTP before the visitation. “It’s a roller coaster ride for them.”
Brue has served as a spokesman for the devastated family, and he shared more insight into the life of the fallen officer with media Tuesday. Patrick was gregarious, a quick wit, but also a levelheaded guy his older siblings turned to for advice, Brue told the Star Tribune. He put family first. And he was innovative, drawing up his own blueprints for projects as he fixed up his parents' lake house, Brue said.
Brue told the newspaper that the 19-year veteran of the Mendota Heights police force set about doing his job the way he handled his personal life, with common sense and compassion.
“Scott would try to set people at ease. Sometimes, when he pulled somebody over, he would tell them: ‘It’s OK. I’m not going to give you a ticket.’ Other times, if he stopped someone for speeding and they had a little girl in the car, he’d say: ‘You really should set a good example for your daughter.’ ”
Mourners are still grappling with how such a caring officer could have been fatally shot on what initially was described as a routine traffic stop. Career criminal Brian Fitch Sr., 39, is charged with murder in the shooting.
“He was a special person in everybody’s hearts,” June Haugen told WCCO of Patrick. “Little pieces that they remember or big pieces, parts of their lives, and he did so much. He was an unbelievable man.”
The Pioneer Press reports that the neighborhoods around the church are reflective of the mood – some homeowners have installed blue porch lights to honor the police officer. Many people on Tuesday were seeking window stickers that show Patrick's Mendota Heights badge wrapped in a blue ribbon, produced by BT Designs in West St. Paul and available for a $5 donation to the Patrick memorial fund, the newspaper reports.
The modest church in West St. Paul, where Patrick was married and not far from where he grew up, will be the site of a widely publicized funeral, as people across the state continue to mourn the rare loss of an officer killed in the line of duty. The last officer fatally shot in the line of duty was Cold Spring officer Tom Decker in 2012.
Many mourners will watch the event on television screens in overflow areas and will line the eight-mile route of the funeral procession to Acacia Park Cemetery.
The service will also be shown on a YouTube channel. An announcement from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety says the cable TV department of the city of Coon Rapids is providing the live stream.
After the service, several thousand fellow law enforcement officers are expected to take part in a nearly eight-mile procession.
“I bet you there are tears in every car, every car in the procession there’s tears,” said Dan Scheuermann, with the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office, told WCCO.