The corner of Dodd and Smith was the first place Mike Brue had to stop upon returning home.
Not the old neighborhood near Baker playground, on St. Paul’s West Side. Not the cafe where he and his brother, Scott Patrick, often shared a breakfast when Brue came to town.
On Thursday, a day after Patrick, a 47-year-old Mendota Heights police officer, was fatally shot while making a traffic stop, Brue had to see where his brother fell.
What he found there around 12:30 p.m., 24 hours after the shooting, was a community’s outpouring of love. Of respect. Of gratitude. At a makeshift memorial that grew larger with each candle, note, balloon and flower left behind, Brue saw the impact his brother’s death had on so many.
“I thought it would help me a little bit, help me understand,” Brue said. “I wanted to go by, to see. But, to be frank, I’m still trying to absorb it, the simplicity of it. But I see the symbolism.”
What he saw, he said, is a community coming to grips with the loss of one of its own.
“I think they understand the frailty of it all,” he said. “That someone can take life in an instant.”
By all accounts, it was a good life. Lived by a good man.
At the Capital View Cafe a few blocks north of the memorial on Smith Avenue, owner Glen Lucken fought back tears. Patrick “was in here all the time, smiling, laughing. He was a good customer, just a great, good, cool guy.”
Lucken attended the candlelight vigil for Patrick Wednesday night, as did hundreds of others.
“I broke down,” he said, barely keeping the tears from returning as he spoke. “You just always saw him in the community.”
Shannon Bauer, a longtime waitress at the Capital View, said Patrick recently had a long conversation with her daughter Izzy about attending St. Cloud State University. Patrick’s oldest daughter graduated from high school a couple of months ago, and he wanted to know about the college. His youngest daughter is about to start ninth grade.
“I talked to my daughter last night,” Bauer said. “I said to her: ‘Izzy, you know, we’re blessed. We’re blessed that Scott was in our life.’ ”
Dan Stoven stopped by the memorial site Thursday. Six years ago, after his house burned down, the Mendota Heights man said Patrick would visit regularly.
“We’d just chat for a while. Scott would usually tell me to move a pile of garbage that people were complaining about,” Stoven said, laughing. “He was a very kind person. Laid back. You wouldn’t even think he was a police officer.
“Scott will be missed,” he said, his smile disappearing. “I’ll miss him.”
They came all day
Throughout the day Thursday, people stopped near the corner of Dodd Road and Smith Avenue to pay respects. Some left balloons. Others flowers; candles, too.
Notes scrawled in crayon, marker and pen were left — one asking “Officer Patrick” to “Rest in Peace.” Another memorial sprung up not far away near the flagpole at Mendota Heights City Hall. But Dodd and Smith was the place so many wanted to see, the place where Patrick was killed, allegedly by a career criminal, during a routine traffic stop.
Ramsey County Sheriff’s Deputy Francisco Estrada knelt in prayer in front of the memorial. As his family watched, he closed his eyes and whispered, then made the sign of the cross and stood up.
“It makes me feel good that the community has done this, that it recognizes the men and women in uniform who patrol the streets,” he said.
Jennifer Spurr visited, too. Twenty four hour earlier, as she was stopped in traffic at nearly the same spot, she saw Patrick get out of his squad and approach a green Pontiac Grand Am. She knew him — from the eight months she’d spent on the police reserves back in 2009. She kept her eyes on him as he approached the car.
As Patrick reached the back of the car, “all of a sudden, boom, boom, boom,” Spurr said. “I saw him fall.”
She got out of her car and ran to the officer, checked for a pulse but found none. Then, chaos.
“I just started crying,” Spurr said.
On Thursday, as people moved about her, Spurr sat on a bench near a U.S. flag, a few feet from the candles, flowers and balloons. It was hard not to weep.
“Mendota Heights has lost a family member,” she said. “It lost a wonderful man.”
And Mike Brue lost a brother.
Just last weekend, Brue of Alvarado, Minn., and his girlfriend visited the Twin Cities. They caught a Twins game at Target Field. Patrick and his wife, Michelle, took the light rail and the couples met at the ballpark.
Then, they parted ways. Brue returned to northwestern Minnesota. Patrick had a few days off.
Wednesday, the day Patrick was killed, was his first day back to work, Brue said.
“Everything people are saying about him is true. With Scott, what you saw was what you got. He liked to put people at ease,” Brue said. “So, when I got here, I had to see [the memorial]. Because I just want to store as much as I can in the memory bank.”