Hundreds Gather for Vigil Honoring First Responders Killed in Shootout

( – People in the hundreds turned out for a vigil on February 18th to remember the two cops and one firefighter who were shot to death that day in Burnsville, Minnesota.

The slayings took place in the very early morning hours of that Sunday after police were summoned to a house to respond to a domestic violence situation. The man involved had several guns and ignored police attempts to defuse the crisis. Instead, he shot at police, killing police officers Paul Elmstrand, Matthew Ruge, and Adam Finseth, a firefighter and paramedic. Police reports indicated there were seven children inside the house with the gunman.

By eight in the morning, the gunman, identified as 38-year-old Shannon Cortez Gooden, was dead. It is not yet clear exactly how he died. Fox News reported that Gooden had a criminal record and had lost his right to possess firearms in 2007 after he was convicted of felony assault. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said investigators recovered many guns from inside the house after the incident ended.

By the next day, flags in Burnsville were flying at half-mast to honor the fallen first responders. At the vigil the prior Sunday night, local resident Jessica Gerardy said her heart broke, and the situation was “devastating.”

Local teacher Terese Trekell was also there, and worried about the effect of the shooting on the community’s children. She said adults will have the duty to try to make sense of this for them, “when we ourselves can’t find any sense in it.”

Fortunately, the seven children in the home—ranging in age from two to 15 years old—were not injured.

Cindy Elmstrand-Castruita, now the widow of slain officer Paul Elmstrand, said her husband “had to be the hero.” She said her husband was driven to do the right thing to protect the public even at the cost of his own life, which has left her heartbroken.

Officials in the city of Burnsville are hailing the fallen men as heroes who were devoted to keeping the city and its residents safe. Burnsville police chief Tanya Schwartz said first responders know their lives may be in danger when they go to work, and “they do it anyway.”

The city says plans are in the works to organize a fundraiser for the families left behind, but they also warned local residents to beware of fundraising scams that too often crop up in the wake of tragedies. Residents are asked to check with the city to ensure that they are donating to a legitimate effort to benefit the families.

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