Maplewood police officer laid to rest

Wife and daughters
A member of the Maplewood police department holds an urn with the remains of Sgt. Joseph Bergeron outside the St. Paul Cathedral, with Bergeron's wife Gail and two daughters standing in the background, in St. Paul, Minn.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

In a day filled with somber ritual, some 3,000 law enforcement officers and members of the public said goodbye to fallen Maplewood police Sgt. Joe Bergeron.

Bergeron, 49, was shot and killed Saturday as he responded to a report of a carjacking in St. Paul.

View a slideshow of the funeral from the St. Paul Cathedral.

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"My heart is aching," Maplewood Police Chief Dave Thomalla told mourners Bergeron's funeral mass, held at the Cathedral of St. Paul.

Thomalla, who worked with Bergeron during his entire 26-year career with the Maplewood department, remembered Bergeron as a great colleague and friend.

He spoke of Bergeron's experience as a firefighter, paramedic, problem-property officer, volunteer coordinator and investigator. But Thomalla said Bergeron's family was equally important to him, and it showed when he was on the job.

"He always dealt with the public the way he would want other officers to treat his immediate family," Thomalla said. "He displayed his gentle kindness every day and loved coming to work every day."

Police cars
Hundreds of police cars lined up in four rows along Summit Avenue in St. Paul on May 6, 2010.
MPR Photo/Than Tibbetts

Thomalla ended with a message for his colleague: "Thank you, Sgt. Bergeron, for your professionalism and dedication. Thank you, Joe, for your compassion, friendship and love. Watch over all of your families, and continue to guide and protect us the way you always have."

Archbishop John Nienstedt welcomed the mourners and recognized Bergeron's wife Gail, and his twin 13-year old daughters, Alexandra and Samantha.

"Words could not express the personal loss we know you feel today," he said.

Mike Duzan, a Chaska police officer and a nephew of Bergeron, said his uncle was a hero among many family members. Duzan said Bergeron was the reason he decided to become a police officer.

"I saw the impact that my Uncle Joe had on people's lives," Duzan said. "I knew that I'd never be able to change the world. But I would change at least one person's world each and every shift. He showed me that this was an awesome responsibility."

Law enforcement officers attend the funeral of Maplewood Police Sgt. Joe Bergeron on May 6, 2010.

The cathedral's rector, Rev. Joseph Johnson, spoke to the ranks who filled the church and listened outside. He said they needed to carry on the battle against what is evil and wrong, a battle in which Bergeron had fallen last weekend.

"You may not feel the cosmic implications of your work each day on the beat, but wear your badges with honor, the honor which comes with being associated with so great a responsibility."

After the funeral mass, hundreds of police vehicles traveled in a long line from St. Paul, through Maplewood where Bergeron served, and on to St. John's Cemetery in Little Canada.

Mourners there held flowers, and a few held handwritten signs that read, "We honor your sacrifice." Two fire trucks extended their ladders toward each other to drape an American flag in between.

Officer Greg McCreary
Washington County Corrections Officer Greg McCreary greets a participant in the procession for Sgt. Joe Bergeron in Maplewood Thursday, May 6, 2010.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

"Taps" was played, and a color guard and rifle team helped perform a ceremony with what's known as "full honors."

They included a pipe band, an honor guard, and a three-volley gun salute.

A final call for his squad number was broadcast to the crowd on police radios at St. John's Cemetery. The number was formally retired after a moment of silence.

The elaborate seven-hour ritual has been sadly familiar to law enforcement in Minnesota over the last decade. Bergeron was the 17th officer to die in the line of duty since 2000.

The most recent before Bergeron happened just eight months ago, when North St. Paul police officer Richard Crittenden was shot and killed with his own gun while wrestling with a domestic assault suspect.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty ordered flags be flown at half-staff at the Capitol and other state buildings and monuments to honor Bergeron.

Bergeron was killed when two 21-year-old suspects approached his squad car on a recreation trail on St. Paul's East Side. One of the suspects, Jason Jones, allegedly shot Bergeron while he sat in the front seat.

Jones was shot and killed by police after attacking a St. Paul police officer who was helping with the manhunt. The other suspect, Joshua Martin, faces murder charges.

(MPR reporter Rupa Shenoy contributed to this report.)