The funeral for the 47-year-old husband and father of two girls at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church was followed by an 8-mile procession to his final resting place, Acacia Park Cemetery in Mendota Heights.
On they came, wave upon wave of black-and-white squads, the SUVs painted with badges, motorcycles driven by grim-faced officers, all with lights flashing, solemnly moving down Dodd Road, through Mendota Heights and on to the sacred burial ground.
“Why are there so many people?” a little girl asked her father as they watched.
“They’re all his friends,” he replied.
Thousands of uniformed officers joined damp-faced family members, friends and neighbors Wednesday to pay their final respects to police officer Scott Patrick, a veteran Mendota Heights patrolman slain one week before during a seemingly routine traffic stop only blocks from the church where he was bid an emotional farewell.
An estimated 5,000 people attended the service, most of them watching on video monitors in a gym, cafeteria and two large tents erected outside St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church. Of those, 4,000 — a thousand more than anticipated — were law enforcement officers from Minnesota and the region, said Department of Public Safety spokesman Doug Neville. Many had to sit or stand on a nearby hill.
“Our overflow areas ended up having overflow areas,” Neville said.
Church seating in the 350-seat brick sanctuary was reserved for family, friends, Mendota Heights city employees and dignitaries. Among those attending were Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Rep. John Kline and other federal, state and local officials.
Patrick, 47, was one of 11 boys who grew up in a blended family on St. Paul’s West Side. After graduating from Humboldt High School in 1985, he earned a degree at Alexandria Community College and got his first police job in Shakopee. He joined the Mendota Heights department in 1995.
During the 75-minute service, fellow officers Robert Lambert and John Larrive remembered their friend and partner as a humorous, humble and very human cop who took his job seriously, but rarely himself.
Lambert, at times choking up and fighting tears, said that he could just see Patrick taking in his funeral with “a smirk on his face, a twinkle in his eye” and saying, “Hey, not bad for a Humboldt grad, eh, cadet?”
As a cop on the street, Patrick was at his best talking with people and offering advice, Larrive said. His office manner, however, wasn’t quite so impressive, Larrive joked, referring to how Patrick hoarded legal pads and looked for ways to duck paperwork.
“Lord, please watch over Scott and do him a favor … point him in the direction of the best restaurant in heaven with half-price margaritas on Mondays,” Larrive said.
Lambert concluded: “I will miss my brother. Scott, I love you. We love you. Rest now. We will take your watch from here.”
Mike Brue, Patrick’s brother and best man at his wedding, remembered him as someone who realized many of his goals — his home renovations being one example — using his drive and common sense.
“Then, in an instant, he’s gone,” Brue said. “And we grieve deeply.”
Jolene Josephson said that when Patrick married her sister, she wondered if he knew what he was getting into. But, she said, she and her family “were the lucky ones. … If he had seen the respect he’d earned, he’d be amazed. Sadly, his retirement came way too early and without warning. Senseless.”
‘Flicker of light’
When Patrick’s wife, Michelle, arrived at the church Wednesday, she was greeted with a long embrace from Gail Bergeron, who had experienced the same heartbreak four years before when her husband, Joe Bergeron, a Maplewood police sergeant, was shot and killed while responding to a report of a carjacking.
Then, Michelle Patrick took hold of the hands of her daughters, Erin and Amy, and entered the church.