EXCLUSIVE: Gov. Walz’s conduct at press event following Burnsville shooting called ‘disgusting’

Sources said staffers with Walz's office were told that the governor should stay away from the press conference.

Gov. Tim Walz speaks at a Feb. 18 press conference following a shooting that killed three Burnsville first responders. (City of Burnsville/YouTube)

On Feb. 18, 2024, officials with the City of Burnsville were reeling after the shooting deaths of two Burnsville police officers and a Burnsville fire medic. On the very same day, the city called a press conference to address the tragedy.

According to multiple sources close to the situation, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, Burnsville officials only intended for the city manager, the police chief, the fire chief, and a representative from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) to speak at the press conference. Wanting to keep the press briefing from becoming even remotely political, city officials were “adamant that no elected official” speak, according to the sources.

The city received requests from public figures and politicians who wanted to join the press conference. One of those individuals was Gov. Tim Walz, sources said.

According to sources with knowledge of the day’s events, city officials fielded multiple calls from Gov. Walz’s office. In those calls, members of the governor’s staff reportedly asked if Walz could speak at the press conference. City officials repeatedly told the governor’s office that elected officials were not welcome to speak at the briefing, the sources said.

At the time, the city was fielding hundreds of media requests, planning a vigil for the fallen first responders, and attempting to help the community navigate the tragic events that had just occurred. In the midst of it all, they had to keep telling Walz’s team “again and again” that he would not be speaking at their press conference, according to the sources.

Walz eventually decided to show up anyway. However, city staff tried to get the governor to agree to stay in a green room during the press conference, the sources explained.

When the press briefing started, Walz was standing just a few feet away from the podium.

At the press conference, city officials expressed shock and grief at the tragic loss of Paul Elmstrand, Matthew Ruge, and Adam Finseth. Describing the three first responders as heroes, Burnsville Police Chief Tanya Schwartz said the community was heartbroken. Fire Chief BJ Jungmann said the events were “the toughest day that the City of Burnsville and our public safety family has ever experienced.”

Before the press conference, Walz was told that if he wanted to make his own comments, then he would need to go somewhere separate, either outside or in an adjacent hallway, according to the sources. However, when Burnsville officials and the BCA finished speaking, Walz walked up to the podium and began addressing the assembled press.

“It was a disgusting act,” said a source close to the situation. Describing the governor’s actions as “repulsive,” an individual familiar with the day’s events said “no one was happy” and the governor’s conduct “just added to the stress.”

Following his remarks, Walz left immediately, the sources said.

Alpha News reached out to Gov. Walz’s office to ask about the events surrounding the February press conference.

A spokesman with the governor’s office said “the only city official the Governor spoke with on Sunday, February 18 before addressing the press was the Burnsville Mayor, who agreed it made sense for state officials, including the Governor, to join the press conference in Burnsville.”

Further, the same spokesman said governors routinely join local officials in the wake of state emergencies and tragedies. Discussing the governor’s role in leading state responses to various situations, the spokesman said “that’s not political — that’s what governors are elected to do.”

“We appreciate our partnership with Burnsville as they navigate this unthinkable tragedy, and we continue to make the full resources of the State of Minnesota available as we work together to recover,” added the governor’s spokesperson.

However, one source described the explanation from the governor’s office as a “grasp at cover.” The same person said staffers with Walz’s office were told multiple times that the governor should stay away from the press conference.

Additionally, Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz was out of town on the day of the shooting and subsequent press conference, the sources explained. While Walz may have spoken with Mayor Kautz, the mayor was not on the ground when the events unfolded. Furthermore, Mayor Kautz reportedly informed city officials that she respected their desire that no elected officials speak at the press conference, the sources said.

The City of Burnsville did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

Liz Collin contributed to this report.


Luke Sprinkel

Luke Sprinkel previously worked as a Legislative Assistant at the Minnesota House of Representatives. He grew up as a Missionary Kid (MK) living in England, Thailand, Tanzania, and the Middle East. Luke graduated from Regent University in 2018.