Scott Patrick was honored today as a city laid to rest a fallen servant, uniting in grief his family and colleagues and a multitude of strangers.
Patrick, the Mendota Heights police officer killed in the line of duty last week, was remembered as caring, dedicated and charming by loved ones. At St. Stephen's Lutheran Church, more than 5,000 people, many of them law enforcement officers, came to say farewell.
In his eulogy, Patrick's brother, Mike Brue, remembered him as a man who knew the risks of the job but didn't hold regrets.
"This kid from St. Paul's West Side, with the frequent smile, the low-key demeanor, the guy who could toss out witty one-line 'crackers' as my brother Mark has called them. They'd bring smiles, took the edge off of stressful situations," Brue said. "This big-picture, problem solver was living a lot of his dream. Then in an instant, he's gone. And we grieve deeply."
That instant came a week ago, when Patrick pulled over Brian Fitch, Sr., a career criminal who prosecutors have charged with first-degree murder for shooting Patrick during the stop.
Patrick served the Mendota Heights Police Department for nearly two decades, and the Shakopee police department for several years before that. The 47-year-old officer leaves behind a wife, two teenage daughters and a large extended family.
Officer Robert Lambert described Patrick as a close colleague, devoted to serving his community.
"He never forgot where he came from. He never looked at himself as being better than anyone else," Lambert said. "That is the biggest lesson that I've learned from him: to remain humble and deeply rooted in the values and morals that guide you to whatever successes you have achieved in your life. I will miss my brother. Scott, I love you. We love you. Rest now. We'll take your watch from here."
After the funeral, two solid lines of law enforcement vehicles proceeded slowly down Charlton Avenue in West St. Paul toward Acacia Park cemetery in Mendota Heights.
Nick Koury, of West St. Paul, sat with a cardboard box of stickers bearing Patrick's badge number. The family began selling them as a fundraiser at their Lilydale coffee shop to benefit the Patrick family.
"Officer Patrick knew our family," said Koury, 32. "My dad was actually in a car accident a year or so back and Officer Patrick was the first one on the scene and helped him out."
Samantha Brown of West St. Paul held a sign saying, "Thank You."
"I was 18 when I was called to jury duty on a gang rape case that happened in Mendota Heights and he was the responding officer and investigator on that case," said Brown, 25. "So I spent two days with him and his testimony. He was an amazing man that loved his job and took such care of the victim in that case."
Others didn't know Patrick personally, but wanted to show their support.
Souad Gubash tossed flower petals at the passing the squad cars, a tradition from her native Lebanon.
"We are very sad to lose the policeman Scott," Gubash said. "We really love him so much and appreciate what he have done for our community and everybody."
Many families and children lined the route. It had echoes of a Fourth of July parade: a summer day, flags, lawn chairs and children. But silence, squad cars and somber adults conveyed the gravity of the day.
Sarah Kirkwood brought her two sons to witness how many people were moved by Patrick's memory.
"Every car that drives by, you know a police officer has thought, this could be my own funeral. And so it's...very eerie in a way," Kirkwood said. "We're here to honor this person, but to also honor all these other people that every day risk their lives for us, who we don't, they don't even know us.
"We just thought it was important to come out and to have them see the magnitude of how many lives this has touched. They probably won't see something like this ever again in their lives. I know I've never seen anything like this."
At the cemetery, bells tolled 272 times, one for each Minnesota officer killed in the line of duty, and 22 times for each year Patrick served as a police office.