First there was a chase, then a crash, and finally, a suspect in the unlikeliest of places, an Arden Hills lake.
Officers shouted, and the suspect, Andrew Paul Heim, 37, a repeat drug offender, tried swimming back to shore. But he went in circles, bobbing up and down, and before going under a final time late Saturday night, he shouted one last expletive at the officers.
And the four patrolmen? “We just looked at each other, and the next thing I knew, we were all shedding our gear — and we dove in,” said Jason Gehrman, a 7½-year veteran of the Roseville Police Department.
The men paired off, and took turns diving, at least five times each by Gehrman’s estimate. But it was dark, in a lake filled with muck, and after five to 10 minutes, they had to give up, each one of them spent, Gehrman said.
Heim’s body was pulled from Farrel’s Lake about 10:15 p.m. Saturday, roughly 45 minutes after he first fled a routine traffic stop. In his car were about 40 tablets of oxycodone, worth about $400 on the street, enough to have warranted a probable felony narcotics charge, authorities said Monday.
At the time of the incident, Heim was under court supervision for a driving violation earlier this year in Dakota County.
To Roseville Police Lt. Lorne Rosand, the officers were heroes, having headed toward a suspect with no guns, no knives, no Tasers: “I don’t know how many people would do this,” he said. “But they did it. Hats off to those guys.”
Gehrman, back on patrol on Monday, said that it was not easy for he and his colleagues — John Jorgensen, Matthew George and Kyle Eckert — to turn back to shore after having seen Heim struggle. But it was getting dangerous, he said.
“I am proud that we went out there and we tried,” he said. “But I don’t feel like a hero. It just felt like part of the job.”
On Monday, the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office ruled Heim’s death an accident.
Fleeing into Arden Hills
About 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Heim, of Minneapolis, was driving a BMW in Roseville when an officer, noticing a broken taillight, attempted a traffic stop at N. Cleveland and Oakcrest avenues. Heim, who had two previous drug convictions, initially pulled to the shoulder and slowed, police said. But he then continued north on Cleveland, increasing his speed and eventually crashing into a wooded area at a T-intersection about 2.8 miles away at County Road E2.
Gehrman was patrolling County Road C near N. Fairview Avenue when he first was alerted to the chase. He pulled north onto Cleveland and could see lights in the distance. He was the third or fourth officer to arrive at the crash scene, he said.
A canine officer and two others found Heim in the lake, and radioed to the others, who came running.
Gehrman, a licensed scuba diver, considers himself only an average swimmer. At first, he said, he thought he was in a pond. The officers tripped over logs, he said. But the water was 20 feet deep, and at the bottom, he said, “it was about three feet of solid weeds.”
In retrospect, he said, the rescue effort was “pretty much impossible.” The officers were in a big area, and could’ve been five to 10 feet from Heim, “nowhere near him,” he said.
But Rosand credited the men for risking their lives to save a man who had put others in danger.
“We are always saddened when a person dies,” Rosand said. “But he put himself in that situation.”
Heim was pronounced dead at 11:04 p.m. Saturday.
Toxicology results are pending.