‘They are the heroes’

An early morning tragedy played out in Burnsville this morning as several first responders were shot and killed while responding to a domestic related call at a single-family residence. 

The Burnsville Police Department identified the deceased as police officers Paul Elmstrand and Matthew Ruge, both 27 years old, and firefighter/Paramedic Adam Finseth, 40-year-old.  A third police officer, Sgt. Adam Medlicott was also injured by gunfire but thankfully is expected to survive. 

The suspect, an adult male who has yet to be identified, also died during the incident – reportedly from a self-inflicted gunshot. 

An adult female and seven children ages 2-15 were also being held by the suspect in the home but were able to leave the residence after the suspect took his life.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is conducting the follow up investigation. At this early stage of the investigation, the BCA has released few details, which is appropriate given the incident played out over several hours.  A great deal of evidence and witness statements need to be collected before a complete picture of what happened can accurately be shared.

“We still don’t know the exact exchange of gunfire that occurred.  Certainly, several officers did return fire. And I’ll note that this individual had several guns and large amounts of ammunition and shot at the police officers from multiple positions within the home in that incident. The exact timing and cadence of what occurred will be part of our active investigation as we review video, officers’ bodycams, video that might be in the area, conduct interviews and all available evidence to really figure out exactly what occurred in this incident.”

BCA Superintendent Drew Evans

News accounts suggest that at approximately 1:50 am, Burnsville Police responded to a call from the residence involving a domestic situation.  The male suspect inside refused to cooperate and a standoff ensued, with police negotiating with the suspect to come out of the house. 

A police tactical team and armored vehicle responded to the residence.  Firefighter Finseth was part of this response serving on the SWAT team as a tactical medic, a position that has become a staple with many tactical teams given the potential for violence.

At approximately 4:30 am the police became aware that the suspect was heavily armed and was continuing his refusal to come out of the house.  The adult female and the seven children remained inside the home with suspect – a situation that creates a different dynamic than a lone barricaded suspect.  Police need to be ready to make emergency entry to protect the innocent, should the suspect begin shooting. 

At approximately 5:26 am officers radioed “officer down.” Neighbors reported hearing multiple gunshots and saw the armored police vehicle in the suspect’s driveway and flash grenades detonating. 

It’s possible that this action was the tactical team trying to make entry into the residence to free the children, or it could have been the team performing a tactical rescue of officers who had been shot.  Photos of the armored vehicle show the ballistic glass was hit multiple times during the incident. 

Sometime after the gunshots, neighbors witnessed an emergency vehicle leave the residence and transport three first responders to a waiting ambulance.  That ambulance transported the three to HCMC.  It was there that the announcement came that two police officers and a firefighter had died of gunshot wounds.

This incident marks the 11th shooting of a police officer in Minnesota or neighboring states since 2023.

It also has the markings of a troubling trend – whereby suspects are willing to shoot at multiple officers on scene.  Safety in numbers was never a guarantee in law enforcement but it used to mean something.  Not in 2024.

Firefighter Finseth’s death marks another sad first for Minnesota.  I believe he is the first Firefighter to be killed by gunfire during a police incident.  It’s a testament to his character that he was willing to put himself in harms way attempting to help injured police officers.

The incident should serve as an awakening to those who have jumped on the calls to “demilitarize” our law enforcement.  Criticism of the need for armored vehicles, and tactical vests and helmets, has come from many activists and political leaders in recent years.  Today’s incident proved the value of such equipment, and such calls should cease immediately. 

The incident also seems to have stirred the public today.  A great show of support lined many of the roads and the overhead bridges as a police procession left HCMC to transport the fallen officers to the Medical Examiner’s office in Minnetonka. 

I spoke with a young officer who was part of that procession.  He is the same age as the officers killed and has served his entire career under the atmosphere of the “defund the police” movement and associated anti police sentiment.  Seeing the outpouring of public support today renewed his spirit in a profound way.  All our officers deserve to feel that support – continuously.

Following the murder of Fargo North Dakota Police Officer Jake Wallin in 2023, people asked what they could do to show support. North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley challenged us all to “Be Worthy.” Wrigley rightly told us to turn back the culture that has made assaults and murders of police officers more likely, and to be worthy of the sacrifices our law enforcement officers make for our communities each day. Be Worthy, indeed.

Officers Elmstrand and Ruge were two officers in a 75-officer department. Firefighter Finseth was one of just 48 firefighters.  The loss to Burnsville public safety is significant and will be felt for some time. 

God bless our peacekeepers, for as Burnsville Police Chief Tanya Schwartz aptly put it, “They are the heroes.”