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Two police officers, fire department medic shot and killed in Burnsville, Minnesota; suspect dead

Law enforcement officials salute as the bodies of two slain officers and a paramedic were transported to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office in Minnetonka, Minnesota, on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024. The two officers and paramedic were fatally shot while responding to an hours-long standoff in response to a domestic abuse call in Burnsville, Minnesota, earlier Sunday. (Liz Sawyer/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Two Burnsville police officers and a Fire Department paramedic were shot and killed early Sunday morning after an hourslong standoff following a domestic abuse call. A gunman barricaded himself inside a home with a woman and seven children before firing on the three, then later turning a gun on himself.

Officers responded to the residence on the 12600 block of 33rd Avenue S. just before 2 a.m. and attempted to communicate with those inside. Gunfire erupted several hours later, striking three officers and the firefighter/paramedic as he tended to one of the wounded.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz speaks at a press conference at Burnsville City Hall about the two police officers and first responder that were killed. (Angelina Katsanis/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

The dead were identified as officers Paul Elmstrand and Matthew Ruge, both 27, and firefighter/paramedic Adam Finseth, 40.

Police Sgt. Adam Medlicott was hospitalized with gunshot wounds but is expected to survive, according to a Burnsville news release.

“This is a hard day. It’s a really hard day for our public safety family. We’re hurting; we’re hurting,” Burnsville Police Chief Tanya Schwarz said at an afternoon news conference. “Today three members of our team made the ultimate sacrifice for this community. They are heroes.” The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) confirmed that the gunman died at the scene.

BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said the standoff began after a 1:50 a.m. call about domestic abuse at a single-family home in a middle-class neighborhood near Terrace Oaks East Park in southeast Burnsville. The man involved was reported to be armed and barricaded with family members in the home, including seven children aged 2 to 15. Evans said there had not been a significant history of police calls to the home before Sunday.

Fire Chief BJ Jungmann speaks at a press conference at Burnsville City Hall about the two police officers and paramedic who were killed. (Angelina Katsanis/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Gunfire erupted about 5:30 a.m. Evans said the suspect, whom he declined to identify, fired at officers who were trying to negotiate with him to leave the house.

At least one of the officers shot was inside the house, Evans said, and it is not yet clear if the others shot were inside or outside the house. Shots were fired from both the upper and main level of the home. Evans confirmed that an armored vehicle on the scene with a bullet-riddled windshield was part of the operation, “which was why it was shot.”

Evans said the suspect was dead by 8 a.m. Sunday, and the other people in the house escaped without injury. Law enforcement sources confirmed that the suspect killed himself.

The BCA is still investigating the shooting, and Evans said the medical examiner’s office will release the suspect’s cause of death.

Police Chief Tanya Schwartz stands at the press conference at Burnsville City Hall as Fire Chief BJ Jungmann speaks. (Angelina Katsanis/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Elmstrand was a five-year veteran of the Police Department, who served on its mobile command staff, peer team, honor guard and field training unit. He joined the department as a community service officer in 2017 and was promoted to officer two years later.

Ruge joined the force in April 2020 and was a member of the crisis negotiations team. Finseth had been a Burnsville firefighter and paramedic since February 2019.

By noon, several hundred officers from police departments across the metro area gathered outside of the Hennepin County Medical Center in downtown Minneapolis, where the three dead were taken, and stood vigil before their bodies were taken in a procession to the Medical Examiner’s office in Minnetonka.

Drew Evans, superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, speaks at a press conference at Burnsville City Hall. (Angelina Katsanis/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

According to emergency dispatch audio, when police determined just after 4:30 a.m. that several firearms were in the home, an officer on scene radioed the suspect’s first name and physical description. “He’s dangerous. … Currently negotiating with him upstairs still,” the officer told police dispatch. “He’s refusing to come out.”

As police negotiated with the gunman, an officer called in: “It seems the children are getting a little antsy and started moving around and are making more noise in the house.”

At 5:26 a.m. came the call: “Two down! Officer down!”

Police Chief Tanya Schwartz presses her forehead as she tears up at the press conference at Burnsville City Hall. (Angelina Katsanis/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Barely a minute later, an officer radioed, “More shots,” followed by another reporting, “Rifle fire from the house. Anybody got eyes on?”

At 6:45 a.m., an officer radioed: “Shots fired from inside. … I don’t know where they came from.”

“We have a caller calling from inside saying the dad is down,” a dispatcher told officers at 6:55 a.m. “He is not breathing. He is in the bedroom. … He just shot himself in the head.”

Randy and Alicia McCullum, who live two houses from the scene, said they awoke to a gunshot at 5:12 a.m., followed by three more. They went to their window and saw police officers and a SWAT vehicle with an extended battering ram-type arm. Randy McCullum said he soon heard glass crashing and a barrage of gunfire. Flash grenades exploded in the driveway. The couple and their two teenage children huddled in a bathroom and prayed.

Around 7 a.m., as daylight emerged, they saw at least seven people leaving the house, mostly children who they said ranged in age from 4 to 13.

“Our hearts go out to them, McCullum said touching his hands to his heart. “We are just so glad the mom and the kids are safe.”

The McCullums had met the family a year before and gave the man tickets to the Minnesota State Fair.

“They seem like really good kids,” Alicia McCullum said. “The mom seemed really good with the kids.”

Milo and Lynn Hartman, who live three houses from the scene, said they heard pounding and “a lot of gunfire.” They then saw a rescue vehicle leave the house and drive down the street, stopping at a waiting ambulance near their home. Three people who appeared unconscious were transferred from the vehicle into the ambulance, they said.

“We’ve lived here 39 years and never had any shootings like this,” Milo Hartman said. “My son says it’s time to move, but this happens everywhere. The word is crazy. Everyone has guns, way too many guns.”

Daniel Dix, who lives with his wife Jennifer two blocks away in Ville Du Parks Houses, said they were notified by Dakota County at 5:50 a.m. to shelter in place. The order was lifted shortly before 11 a.m., and police soon began cordoning off the area with yellow crime scene tape.

Sunday’s killing of the officers marks the ninth incident in barely 10 months that law enforcement officers have been killed or wounded by gunfire in or near Minnesota.

Gov. Tim Walz on Sunday said the state stands ready to assist the three men’s families.

“That’s just not today and tomorrow, it’s for many years to come, and I think, for Minnesotans to recognize families that are shattered by something like this forever.”

The governor said the state Department of Public Safety is coordinating with local police to investigate the shooting. He is ordering that flags be flown at half-staff beginning Monday.

“Our police officers and our fire paramedics, they come to work every day, they do it willingly, they know that they might have to give up their life for their partners, for someone else,” Schultz, the Burnsville Police Chief, said. “They know they have to give up their life sometime, and they do it anyways. And you cannot understand it if you’re not in our profession. Every day we want them to go home to their families. Every day we pray that they go home to their families. And today that’s not happening.”


© 2024 StarTribune

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