The Dakota County Chiefs of Police Association honored a good Samaritan and six others at its second annual awards ceremony Feb. 10.
Inver Grove Heights police officer John Decker was clearly in trouble, struggling hand-to-hand with a man armed with a hammer who had already damaged 20 cars in the parking lot of the city's AMC movie theater and threatened bystanders in the crowd that gathered.
That's when Gregory Groenjes and Anthony Cadotte stepped in. They didn't know Decker, the suspect or each other. But together they helped subdue the assailant so he could be handcuffed and held until other officers arrived.
Groenjes and Cadotte were among seven people -- civilians and police officers -- who were honored by the Dakota County Chiefs of Police Association in an awards ceremony Feb. 10 at the Mendakota Country Club.
Of the two who aided Decker, only Groenjes attended the ceremony, where he was given the Citizens Award of Excellence by Inver Grove Heights Police Chief Larry Stanger. The chief said he hopes to get Cadotte's award to him soon.
"Their quick actions and assistance led to the arrest of someone who was truly dangerous," Stanger said. "Without their willingness to help, this incident could have resulted in injury or death to the officer, other bystanders or even the suspect himself."
Two other men also received citizens awards. Harry Wickstrom, who works for Flint Hills Resources Center, manages a training facility there that helps police and fire departments throughout Dakota County with the use of force, fires and more.
Rosemount Police Chief Gary Kalstabakken said Wickstrom is a longtime friend of law enforcement and called the facility "the house that Harry built."
John Grimaldi received his award from Burnsville Chief Bob Hawkins, who said Grimaldi has volunteered for his department for eight years and has updated and modernized more than 160 plans vital in providing accurate information to officers responding to emergency calls.
Monica Jensen, community relations director for the Dakota County Attorney's Office, received the Exceptional Public Safety Member Award. County Attorney Jim Backstrom feted her, saying, "I'm not sure if anyone works harder."
He said she was "a leader in crime prevention, not only in Dakota County but throughout the entire metro area."
Burnsville officers David Luchsinger and Brad Litke received the Award of Honor. Luchsinger was in the lobby of the police department last summer after talking with a woman and her two children about custody issues when a man who had cut his throat and wrists with a box cutter walked in.
Luchsinger tried to calm the man and get him to talk about what was happening. The officer drew his gun when the man swiped the box cutter across his throat again and brandished it at the officer.
Luchsinger radioed into the office what was going on but had to stop officers from rushing into the lobby for fear they could get caught in potential crossfire. Officers eventually shot the man with a Taser, subduing him.
"Their heroism saved that guy's life," Hawkins said.
The incident was caught on Luchsinger's body camera. The video can be seen at www.startribune.com/a1045.
"It feels pretty good," Luchsinger said of getting the award. "I'm glad police officers are getting recognition for the good work they do every day."
Said Litke: "It is a very dangerous job. It's the training and experience that allow us to be prepared for something like this."
Pat Pheifer • 952-746-3284