Slain officer remembered
WEST ST. PAUL — In a sea of blue uniforms and black-clad badges that gave way to an unabating column of squad car lights, thousands of mourners packed a West St. Paul neighborhood church and the surrounding streets Wednesday to pay their respects to fallen Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick.
He was a loving father and husband who beamed over his daughters. He was a handyman who cobbled together the family lake house, a good-natured wise-cracker with a big grin. And he was a dedicated public servant who loved his work in the community he called home.
“I will miss my brother,” said fellow Mendota Heights officer Robert Lambert in an emotional eulogy. “Scott, I love you. We love you. Rest now. We’ll take your watch from here.”
Lambert was one of about 5,000 people — 4,000 of them law enforcement officers from every corner of Minnesota and beyond — who gathered at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church for Patrick’s 11 a.m. funeral.
Patrick was shot and killed just after noon July 30 during a routine traffic stop in West St. Paul. The career criminal charged with his murder, Brian Fitch Sr., was arrested that night in St. Paul after a shootout with police. He remains hospitalized with eight gunshot wounds.
Inside the church, Mendota Heights officers joined Patrick’s widow, Michelle, and daughters, 17-year-old Erin and 13-year-old Amy, along with Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and other dignitaries.
The rest of the crowd spilled into overflow tents and beyond. A Department of Public Safety spokesman said organizers got phone calls asking for information and directions from law enforcement officers as far away as Canada.
Mendota Heights Police Chief Mike Aschenbrener said Patrick, a 19-year Mendota Heights Police veteran, chose a path he loved and never strayed from it.
“He was true to himself. He was true to his family. He was true to his profession,” Aschenbrener said.
Lambert and John Larrive, two officers who Aschenbrener said likely spent more time with Patrick than anyone outside his family, both spoke Wednesday.
They described Patrick as an exemplar of community policing — compassionate and deeply committed to making his town a better place.
He wasn’t an officer who would write the most tickets or make the most arrests, Larrive said. In fact, “he probably would’ve done whatever he could to get out of paperwork.”
But Patrick listened, he said, and he cared.
Turning his remarks toward the world beyond, Larrive highlighted a few of his friend’s more lighthearted habits.
“Lord, if you can hear me, I have something to say,” he said. “If you are looking for yellow legal pads, Scott has them all.”
He also asked that Patrick be directed to “the best restaurant in heaven with half-priced margaritas on Monday.”
Larrive recounted the way Patrick would bid his colleagues farewell for a weekend or vacation. He’d ask them what they had planned and tell them to enjoy the break.
In that spirit, he asked his fallen comrade: “Please police from heaven, and enjoy your days off.”
Mike Brue, Patrick’s brother, spoke of Patrick’s resourceful do-it-yourself streak. He once decided he wanted to turn his detached garage into an attached one, and lured 40 friends and family members over with cold beers to move the structure into place.
Patrick knew the risks of his job and wasn’t one to harbor regrets, Brue said — except, perhaps, a lake house improvement project that sprawled out of control. When the dust settled, Patrick finally admitted he might have gone overboard.
He had the conviction to build a life that matched his dreams, Brue said.
“Then, in an instant, he’s gone, and we grieve deeply,” he said.
Patrick and Michelle were married in the same church 26 years ago. One of the songs from their wedding, Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” was sung at the funeral.
Officer Lambert choked up as he imagined what Patrick might say at the sight of a bustling hero’s funeral in his honor.
“He’d say ‘Not bad for a Humboldt grad,’” Lambert said.
Crowds of onlookers, ranging from babies in strollers to a 92-year-old man pushing a walker, lined the route with homemade signs and American flags.
The ceremony closed with the final radio call from a Dakota County dispatcher:
“Calling 2231. … Officer Scott Patrick, badge 2231 is out of service, end of watch July 30, 2014. Mendota Heights police department badge 2231 is 10-7.”
A bell rang 22 times, one for each year of Patrick’s career as an officer, and his tour of duty came to an end.