They'd been showing up since they heard the news. They brought candles, flags, personal messages and flowers and piled them lovingly on the boulevard outside A & J's Garage in West St. Paul. Candle wax ran down the curb.
Two days before, Mendota Heights Police Officer Scott Patrick was shot during a routine traffic stop. He was transported to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where he was pronounced dead.
Flanked by her two teenage daughters, Scott Patrick's widow, Michelle, stood in front of the makeshift memorial and thanked the public and members of law enforcement for their support.
"I chose to offer my thanks right here, near this completely spontaneous display at this profoundly senseless, tragic occasion," Michelle Patrick said. "It symbolizes a greater depth of feeling and love that overwhelms us and moves us."
She said her family was grateful for all the prayers, thoughts and condolences from people near and far.
You "remind us that we truly all carry this burden, and that we are one big family that is truly hurting right now," she told the crowd as she fought back tears. "You share our grief, and because of that, you lighten our burden."
Police officers from around the area escorted the family to the memorial. Scott Patrick's brother, Mike Brue, said Scott was drawn to the social aspect of police work.
"He sensed early on that something about working in the community and doing the types of things that he knew he had the skills to do," Brue said. "Talk to people, put them at ease — something he even knew a bit as a high school student — use a little humor when the situation called for it."
Asked to describe her husband, Michelle Patrick said simply, "he's a great guy."
"He really knew how to make $10 look like $100," she said. "He would always have the humor, just to lighten things up."
"All of this," she said of the memorial and dozens of locals gathered around it, "he'd just be making jokes about it."
While Michelle Patrick spoke, a helium-filled balloon shaped like a star detached from the memorial and floated away.
"We're very touched, very touched — words can't even speak," she said, as the grey clouds above threatened rain. "That's why I wanted to come, just to let everybody know: I'm feeling it."