Thousands gather to honor fallen Burnsville officers and fire medic 

All told, an estimated 10,300 people turned out to pay their respects to officers Paul Elmstrand and Matthew Ruge, both 27, and 40-year-old fire medic Adam Finseth.

An American flag connected to two fire engines flies outside the entrance to Grace Church in Eden Prairie. (Kevin Rofidal/Alpha News)

Grace Church in Eden Prairie was at capacity 30 minutes before Wednesday’s memorial service for three fallen Burnsville first responders even began.

The mega church had space for 7,600 attendees, plus room for an overflow crowd who watched via livestream at Prince of Peace Church in Burnsville. All told, an estimated 10,300 people turned out to pay their respects to officers Paul Elmstrand and Matthew Ruge, both 27, and 40-year-old fire medic Adam Finseth, who were shot and killed in the line of duty Feb. 18.

Sgt. Adam Medlicott, who was also shot during the incident, spoke during the service, sharing that his relationship with the two slain officers went back years. He supervised both Ruge and Elmstrand on their night shifts and was standing with them on their final call.

Medlicott was one of Elmstrand’s field training officers. He described Elmstrand as “smart and thoughtful” and fondly shared a memory of his early shifts where Elmstrand called a “getaway car” the “go-away vehicle.”

All told, an estimated 10,300 people turned out to pay their respects. (Video still)

He said that Ruge was a crisis negotiator on the scene that morning. “I was standing next to [Ruge] on his last call,” Medlicott said. “I believed in him as a crisis negotiator. You can’t reason with evil.”

“We were there for seven children. Nothing could be more honorable. Rest easy brothers,” Medlicott said.

Burnsville police officer Pete Mueller shared that Ruge’s “calm demeanor and authenticity” made him a good crisis negotiator.

Sgt. Adam Medlicott, who was also shot during the incident, spoke during the service. (Video still)

“He was extraordinarily heroic that morning. He negotiated for several hours, which bought us time and in law enforcement we know that time is our friend. The time that he delivered brought countless resources to the scene which protected us,” Mueller said.

Burnsville Police Chief Tanya Schwartz also spoke at the service, thanking the broader law enforcement community for their support. She said that the fallen officers were doing what they were called to do.

“Thank you for putting your uniform on in the most challenging and dangerous times in law enforcement,” Schwartz said to the law enforcement officers present at the funeral.

Burnsville Police Chief Tanya Schwartz hugs Burnsville Fire Chief BJ Jungmann. (Video still)

“The thin blue line does not represent division, but rather solidarity, selflessness, courage, bravery, and the ultimate sacrifice,” she added.

Burnsville’s fire chief shared a few words regarding Finseth. “He treated everyone in the community as he would treat his own family,” Chief BJ Jungmann said. “Adam died helping his comrades without a second thought.”

The service ended with an officer reading out the final call over dispatch.

“They responded to their last call together and they laid down their lives together,” he said. “They died doing what they were called to do. Citizens of Burnsville will forever be in their debt. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten.”

Statements from the families

The families of the three first responders shared statements with the media ahead of Wednesday’s service.

Tara Finseth, wife of firefighter/paramedic Adam Finseth:

“To say that our family is devastated at the loss of our Adam is an understatement. We are broken. Our children will grow up without their ‘papa.’ My soul mate is no longer here to wrap me in his arms and live out the life we had so intimately planned. His parents are without their son and his sister is without her big brother and best friend. So many friends and family are left with a void in their hearts. Adam was one of the most selfless and humble individuals you would ever meet. His dedication to his family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, community, and country was unwavering. His warm smile, contagious laugh and genuine personality will be deeply missed by so many. Although our forever hero is no longer with us, his soul will live on through me, his children, family, friends, and community. We know he is by our side everyday until we meet again in heaven. On behalf of our family, thank you for the overwhelming and heartwarming support during this very difficult time.”

Cindy Elmstrand-Castruita, wife of officer Paul Elmstrand: 

“Our family is heartbroken at Paul’s death. He was an amazing husband, father, son, and friend to many. He loved to laugh and loved to play. He was the most generous, loving, patient person I’ve ever known with the biggest smile. He would stay awake so others could sleep. He could make anyone in a room feel welcome. He wore the same pair of pants and the most basic clothes so that he could spoil me and our children. He had a servant’s heart and would drop everything to help someone who was in need, whether it be family, friend or someone on the street. He loved his job as a police officer and had a strong bond with those he worked with, but he always placed his family first. He had an inner-confidence that was anchored in his faith in Jesus Christ.”

Sean Ruge and Christin Henke, the family of officer Matthew Ruge: 

“Matthew was the light of our lives. From the time he was born, he showed signs of ‘perfecting the art of kindness’ and was a joy to everyone around him. He never hesitated to drop what he was doing to help a neighbor or friend in need. He was the ‘glue guy’ who made everyone around him better. From the earliest age, Matt wanted to help and protect people. He found his true calling as a Police Officer, becoming an even greater force for good in the world. He said he wanted to be there for people when they were having the worst days of their lives and help them overcome their challenges. Matthew was a true hero. He was proud to call his fellow officers at the Burnsville Police Department his brothers and sisters. He did not hesitate to risk himself to save others. He was part of the solution, not part of a problem. He continues to be the light of our lives; he is greatly missed, but will be with us always and will continue to inspire us to be kind and make the world better every day. Thank you all for your overwhelming and constant support. Please continue to pray for us and all the grieving families, friends and especially the incredible law enforcement and first responder community.”


Hayley Feland

Hayley Feland previously worked as a journalist with The Minnesota Sun, The Wisconsin Daily Star, and The College Fix. She is a Minnesota native with a passion for politics and journalism.