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Two police officers, first responder shot and killed in Burnsville, Minnesota

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Two Burnsville police officers and a Fire Department paramedic were shot and killed at a home early Sunday morning after an hourslong standoff following a domestic abuse call.

The gunman, who had barricaded himself inside the home with a woman and seven children, died after turning his weapon on himself, authorities said.

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

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 was expected to survive, city officials said.

“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 Schwartz said at an afternoon news conference. “Today three members of our team made the ultimate sacrifice for this community. They are heroes.”

BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said the standoff began after a 1:50 a.m. call about domestic abuse in a neighborhood near Terrace Oaks East Park in southeast Burnsville. According to the caller, the man was armed and barricaded inside the single-family home with the woman and children ages 2 to 15.

Evans said there had not been a significant history of police calls to the home before Sunday.

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

At least one of the officers was inside the house, Evans said, and it was not clear where the others were. Shots were fired from the upper and main levels of the home.

Evans confirmed that an armored vehicle — with a bullet-riddled windshield — took part in the operation. “Which was why it was shot,” he said.

Evans said the suspect was dead by 8 a.m., but the others inside the house escaped injury. Law enforcement sources confirmed that the suspect killed himself.

The BCA was investigating, and Evans said the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office will release the suspect’s cause of death.

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 an 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 Sunday, several hundred officers from police departments across the metro gathered outside HCMC in downtown Minneapolis, where the three dead were taken. They stood vigil before the American-flag draped bodies were carried in a procession to the Medical Examiner’s Office in Minnetonka.

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

As negotiations continued, 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!”

Barely a minute later, an officer radioed, “More shots.” Then another reported: “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 — mostly children — leaving the house.

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

The McCullums met the family a year ago 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 away, said they heard pounding and “a lot of gunfire.” They then saw a rescue vehicle drive from the scene to an ambulance waiting near their home. Three people appeared unconscious as they were transferred 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 world is crazy. Everyone has guns, way too many guns.”

Daniel Dix, who lives with his wife Jennifer two blocks away in Ville Du Parc, said they were notified by Dakota County at 5:50 a.m. and told 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.

It was the ninth time in barely 10 months that law enforcement officers have been killed or wounded by gunfire in Minnesota or an adjoining state.

At dusk, several hundred people gathered for a vigil at Burnsville City Hall. They crowded around police cars and an ambulance strewn with bouquets of flowers as the city manager and a police chaplain spoke about the need to support one another.

Dozens of police from across the metro and several cities across Minnesota joined the mourners.

A few families brought candles, but the vigil was mostly lit by the flickering blue and red lights atop the squad cars blocking the parking lot where mourners stood.

Gov. Tim Walz said the state stands ready to assist the three slain 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 shootings. He is ordering flags to 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,” said Schwartz, the Burnsville police chief. “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.”

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