The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association named Sgt. Brent Murray its “Officer of the Year” at its annual convention Saturday at the Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center in Alexandria, Minn.
Alpha News journalist Liz Collin emceed the awards ceremony on Saturday night and shared a special report about Sgt. Murray of the Burnsville Police Department.
“Self-sacrifice or service above self was an early thought process for me,” Sgt. Murray told Alpha News.
Sgt. Murray comes from a family of military service.
But Murray took his desire to put others first to the Burnsville Police Department.
“My dad always taught me work hard but have fun. You have to do something you enjoy and that’s what brought me to law enforcement,” he said.
He’s spent the last 20 years protecting the more than 60,000 people who call Minnesota’s 16th-largest city home.
“You’ve always had that thought that you think you’ve seen everything, and you haven’t,” he added.
It’s a call 14 months ago that will always stay with him.
“It happened very quickly,” Sgt. Murray said.
“Almost any time I drive by that area or any part of that route I think about that day,” he added.
He told Alpha News what he remembers about the moments before it happened.
“I was actually about to go home so my shift was ending, and I heard the call came out. I just remember this sounds like a call I need to be at. So, I didn’t go home. I apologize,” he told us as he got choked up recalling the events of April 18, 2021.
That call started when the driver of a stolen pickup crashed. He then attempted to carjack another vehicle before running into a TGI Fridays and stealing a customer’s car keys. She believed the man was going to shoot her and watched as he took off in her white Ford Fusion.
“I chose to go over to the restaurant to try and intervene in that. That’s when I observed the vehicle fleeing the area and began to pursue it,” Murray said.
Another officer pitted the vehicle before the suspect fired through his back windshield at officers as they held their fire.
The suspect then bailed out of the driver’s side door and ran out onto the highway, waving his gun and looking for another car to steal.
It’s when you see Sgt. Murray in the corner of the screen of the video as he draws his rifle and stops the threat.
Brad Litke is a detective with the Burnsville Police Department
“Really the courage of the officers that day is second to none,” Detective Litke said.
“It had all the makings to end very tragically for the innocent lives of the people on Highway 13 that day, or the officers involved,” he added.
Sgt. Dave Zerwas also spoke to Alpha News about the incident and Sgt. Murray.
“If there could have been two better officers to be on that call, I don’t know them. They absolutely protected other people that day,” Sgt. Zerwas said of his colleagues.
“That goes to speak to the leadership of Sgt. Murray. He’s not one of these guys that’s going to back down or shy away from a call, sit behind a desk, whatever. He’s going to get out there and support his troops any way possible,” he added.
Sgt. Zerwas said he knew it would be a long road ahead for the officers involved.
“There’s no denying it. Some people adapt better than others. But nonetheless we’re all changed by those kinds of incidents,” he said.
Sgt. Murray says the day still weighs on him, too.
A peer team program within the department and other services have helped all of the officers work through the call and the consequences.
Murray believes it’s the only way they’ve been able to continue to effectively serve the community.
“Ultimately, it’s the stress we endure not just from a single incident, often long-term, [but] for multiple incidents. It starts at the top and we’re lucky enough to have that here,” Sgt. Murray said.
Although it’s the officers in the Burnsville Police Department who feel lucky to have a leader like him.
“He goes out there and shows you how it’s done,” Detective Litke said.
“I say right place, wrong time. That’s who I am, but he says right place, right time. [He’s] ready to be there and address the threat,” Sgt. Zerwas added.
“I’m thankful for the recognition. It’s very nice for all of us who were working that day. This isn’t just about me. It’s for them as well,” Sgt. Murray said.
The MPPOA also honored Rep. Brian Johnson from Cambridge as its “Legislator of the Year.” Prior to holding elected office, Johnson served 27 years in law enforcement. He currently represents much of Isanti County, including the cities of Cambridge and Isanti, as well as the northern portions of Chisago County.
“Minnesota’s police officers are incredible professionals who work every day to keep communities safe,” Johnson said. “I’m honored to lead efforts at the Capitol for safer, stronger communities and to make sure law enforcement has the support and resources they need. My priority has — and always will be — the safety and security of all Minnesotans.”