Thousands expected at memorial service for 3 slain Minnesota first responders

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Thousands of law enforcement officers, firefighters and paramedics are expected to pack a Minnesota church Wednesday for a memorial service for three first responders who were shot while responding to a report of a domestic incident at a home with seven children inside.

The Minneapolis suburb of Burnsville has been in mourning for a week and a half since police officers Paul Elmstrand and Matthew Ruge, both 27, and firefighter-paramedic Adam Finseth, 40, were killed. Investigators say Shannon Gooden, 38, opened fire on them without warning during a standoff at his home and later killed himself.

“On February 18, our worlds completely collapsed. It was the darkest day in the history of our police and fire brigade. And it’s still almost impossible for us to comprehend,” Burnsville Police Chief Tanya Schwartz said Monday during a service briefing as she thanked the community for the outpouring of support.

The service will take place at the nondenominational Grace Church in the suburb of Eden Prairie, one of the largest churches in the Minneapolis area. Due to expected overcrowding, officials have encouraged the public to instead watch the livestream from home or at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville. The livestream will be available on the Grace Church website and YouTube channel.

A procession of public safety vehicles will drive from Eden Prairie Church to Burnsville after the service, passing a fire station, police headquarters and Burnsville Church. Officials encouraged people to stand along the route to pay their respects.

“Much of this memorial service will be like nothing Minnesota has ever seen,” Howie Padilla, spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, told reporters, citing the expected attendance of not only law enforcement officers, but also firefighters and paramedics.

Authorities have released only limited information about the incident, citing the ongoing investigation.

According to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is leading the investigation, police were called to the home around 1:50 a.m. on Sunday, February 18. Gooden refused to leave, but said he was unarmed and there were children in the house. Officers entered and negotiated with him for about 3 1/2 hours in an attempt to get him to surrender. But just before 5:30 a.m., the BCA says, Gooden opened fire on officers inside without warning.

The BCA said Elmstrand and Ruge, and Sgt. Adam Medlicott, 38, is believed to be shot for the first time inside the home. Medlicott and another officer, who was not injured, returned fire from inside the house, wounding Gooden in the leg.

According to the BCA, Ruge and Medlicott were shot a second time as officers approached an armored vehicle in the driveway. Finseth, who was assigned to the SWAT team, was shot when he tried to help officers, the report said. Elmstrand, Ruge and Finseth were pronounced dead at a hospital. Medlicott survived and is recovering at home.

The BCA said Gooden had “several firearms” and shot more than 100 rounds before killing himself. A court document filed by a BCA officer said the initial 911 call “in reference to an alleged allegation of sexual assault.” Authorities have not provided any further details.

Court records show Gooden was legally barred from owning guns because of his criminal record and was embroiled in a yearslong dispute over his three eldest children. The children in the house were between 2 and 15 years old.