The two robbery suspects were in full flight from Minneapolis police, with one even rolling out of a moving vehicle while his accomplice tried to shoot his way to freedom.
The Hollywood-style chase failed, and the three officers who arrested them earned the Police Department’s Medal of Valor.
Myron “Mike” Schliesman, a cheerful officer and the department’s first American Indian to wear the uniform, was one of the three officers honored for putting their lives on the line in that pursuit. Schliesman, who retired from the force in 1995, died Sept. 4 from bone cancer. He was 68 and had been living in Rochester, Minn.
Sgt. Doug Smith was among the three officers called on that day in August 1986 to help detectives trying to nab two suspects in a number of pharmacy holdups.
“The two had just robbed a drugstore,” Smith said this week. “We picked up the chase. … They suddenly turned the corner, and a passenger came rolling out of the moving car with the drugs in a bag.”
He was soon caught but the car kept going. Then the driver “slammed on the brakes and started shooting,” Smith said. “I made a hard left turn to come up next to Mike and [officer] Terry Snover, and the guy started putting rounds into my car.”
The gunman fled into the basement of an occupied home in Northeast. “We gassed him out,” Smith said.
In October of that year, Police Chief Tony Bouza bestowed the Medals of Valor on Schliesman, Smith and Snover.
Smith, the lone survivor among the three, recalls Schliesman as “a very solid police officer who enjoyed his job and had a great sense of humor. You couldn’t ask for a better guy to be around.”
Schliesman grew up in Beardsley in west-central Minnesota and was a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe. His parents were divorced when he was 8, and he and his mother moved to Excelsior when he was 15.
“I come from a broken family, and there was never any money,” Schliesman said in an interview with the Minneapolis Tribune upon graduating from police training school in 1973. “I have an understanding of what people are going through. I’ll try to help people understand what the problem is and give them an idea of how they can help themselves.”
Son Ronald Schliesman of Montrose, Minn., said his father kept his heritage “pretty much private. … He wasn’t ashamed by any means. I know he kept it close to his heart.”
Along with his crime-fighting duties, Schliesman played in the Minneapolis Police Swing Band and had a little greeting with fellow officer Steven Sworski that always made him chuckle.
“He’d just wiggle his fingers all the time like he was playing the trumpet and made this funny sound,” Sworski said. “He did it because I got a charge out of it.”
Schliesman graduated from Minnetonka High School, then joined the Army in 1962 and was honorably discharged in 1965. Before becoming a cop, he worked as a short-order cook, a life insurance salesman and a truck driver.
While a Minneapolis police officer, Schliesman served on the force’s first SWAT team and in the homicide, narcotics, child sex crimes and Internal Affairs units. Upon his retirement from the force, he drove a delivery truck in Rochester, worked as a real estate agent and “played golf — he loved to play golf,” Ronald Schliesman said.
Along with Ronald, Schliesman is survived by son Nicholas of Burnsville, daughter Stephanie of Duluth and six grandchildren. Services have been held.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482