Minnesota community mourns 2 officers, 1 firefighter killed at the scene of a domestic call

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BURNSVILLE, Minn. (AP) — A suburban Minneapolis community was in mourning on Monday after authorities said two police officers and a firefighter were killed by a heavily armed man who shot at them from inside a home that was filled with children.

The shooting on Sunday in a tree-lined neighborhood of Burnsville, Minnesota, left a third officer wounded. The suspect, who officials said had multiple guns and large amounts of ammunition, also died.

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Superintendent Drew Evans said there was an exchange of gunfire, and authorities were still piecing together details of what he described as a “terrible day.”

The firefighter, who also works as a paramedic, was shot while providing aid to an injured officer, Evans said. He told reporters the paramedic was a part of a SWAT team that had been called to a domestic situation at the home.

Inside, an armed man had barricaded himself with his family, including seven children ranging in age from 2 to 15, Evans said.

He said negotiations lasted for hours before the suspect opened fire. He wasn’t specific on the exact amount of time, but the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association said the standoff lasted four hours before a SWAT team entered the home.

Evans said the suspect had several guns and large amounts of ammunition and shot at the police officers from multiple positions within the home, including the upper and lower floors. Evans said at least one officer was shot inside the home.

“We still don’t know the exact exchange of gunfire that occurred,” Evans said. “Certainly several officers did return fire.”

He said that around 8 a.m. the suspect was found dead and the family and children were released from the home. None of them were hurt.

City officials identified the slain officers as Paul Elmstrand and Matthew Ruge, both 27. Adam Finseth, 40, a firefighter and paramedic for the city since 2019, also was killed.

Elmstrand, a member of the department’s mobile command staff, joined the department in 2017. Ruge was hired in 2020 and was part of the department’s crisis negotiations team and was a physical evidence officer.

Another police officer, Sgt. Adam Medlicott, was injured and being treated at a hospital with what are believed to be non-life-threatening injuries, the city said.

As the bodies of the dead left a hospital, officers saluted, before they were taken in a convoy to the medical examiner’s office. Medical staff watched in scrubs.

“We’re hurting,” said Police Chief Tanya Schwartz. “Today, three members of our team made the ultimate sacrifice for this community. They are heroes.”

Neighbors were startled awake by loud pops about an hour before sunrise.

Alicia McCullum said she and her family dropped to the floor, uncertain whether the noise was gunshots. She and her husband peered out of their sunroom and saw squad cars and a phalanx of police officers.

“I didn’t think it was a gunshot at first, but then we opened the windows and we saw police everywhere and police hiding in our neighbors’ yards,” said McCullum, who lives two houses down from the source of the commotion.

“Then there were three more gunshots,” she said. “It was like a bunch of fireworks.” That’s when she and her husband and two children sought safety in a bathroom and dropped to the floor. They prayed.

McCullum said she was relieved to see a woman and children escorted out of their home. “We’re so thankful for those police officers that risked their lives to save those kids,” McCullum said.“And my heart goes out to that mother.”

Fire Chief BJ Jungmann said the community was grieving and asked for privacy for the families. None of the relatives of the officers or the firefighter immediately returned phone messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Evans said the medical examiner would identify the suspect and said autopsies were planned for Monday. There was no indication the home had been a source of troubles in the past.

“There have not been many calls for service at all,” Evans said.

As the investigation unfolded, the neighborhood was ringed with police cars to keep reporters and the public away. A police armored vehicle had bullet damage to its windshield, and Evans confirmed it sustained the damage in the gunfight.

Police scanner recordings on Broadcastify.com capture a rattled man saying, “I need any ambulance,” as he struggled to catch his breath. Someone later could be heard talking about three being loaded into ambulances, uttering the word “critical.”

As news spread, other law enforcement agencies immediately began posting messages of condolence on social media, including images of badges with blue bars through them. It is a mark of solidarity in mourning.

“In times like these, it is essential to come together as a community and support one another through the uncertainty and grief,” said Marty Kelly, the sheriff in neighboring Goodhue County.

Flags also were lowered to half-staff, with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz urging those who walked past them to take a moment and think about the first responders who lost their lives.

“Minnesota mourns with you,” he said. “The state stands ready to assist in any way possible.”

Hundreds of people gathered in front of Burnsville City Hall on Sunday night for a candlelit vigil to remember the victims. Several uniformed officers from other departments also attended.

A fire truck and police car were in front of the building. The police vehicle had bouquets of flowers on the hood and handwritten signs tucked under the windshield wipers, one of which read: “We are praying for you.” Those gathered joined together in prayer and sang “Amazing Grace.”

“Right now is a time to grieve, to come together and grieve our community’s loss, and to support the families,” said U.S. Rep. Angie Craig.

“I can’t imagine the pain that you’re all going through,” Craig continued, “but what I can say is that to all our officers out there, the paramedics, our firefighters, thank you for what you do.” The crowd applauded.

“It’s an important community,” said area resident Kris Martin, “and we feel very saddened by what happened.”

Burnsville, a city of around 64,000, is located about 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of downtown Minneapolis.

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Associated Press writers Rob Jagodzinski and Bobby Caina Calvan in New York City, Maysoon Khan in Albany, New York, and Jesse Bedayn in Denver contributed to this report.

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