The kidnapping, torture and beating of a developmentally delayed man in 2008 so troubled Dakota County sheriff's deputies that they made special efforts to put the five assailants behind bars.

On Thursday, Justin Hamilton, 26, personally thanked those deputies and investigators, saying they have changed the way he sees police, and -- along with prosecutors -- helped him find justice.

"Before this happened, I had no respect for the police," he said at a Rosemount ceremony honoring the work of deputies who quickly responded and later investigated the beatings that lasted for hours, over two consecutive nights, in a remote area of southern Dakota County.

Hamilton was kicked, hit with a military-style baton and other objects, and burned.

"By what they did on my case ... they made me feel like part of the police family," he said after the ceremony.

Hamilton also privately told Sgt. Pat Enderlein, who caught three of the culprits in a pickup truck, that he seemed to be like an older brother.

Hamilton, of Lakeville, has fetal alcohol syndrome and other disabilities and continues to recover from the emotional trauma. Long after the culprits received stiff sentences, Hamilton said, the deputies still stop by to visit.

In presenting the awards, Sheriff Dave Bellows said he has never, in 30 years of law enforcement, seen investigators and deputies so motivated to solve a case. Detective Rick Schroeder led that charge, and for that he received the department's medal of merit.

"As the lead detective in this case, Deputy Schroeder clearly showed an extraordinary level of investigative expertise, thoroughness, conscientiousness and determination through the course of this investigation," Bellows told the group. "As a result, five individuals responsible for this horrific crime were identified and ultimately arrested."

Also honored as a unit were Enderlein, Detectives Jennifer Cho, Steve Forrey, Coreen Kulvich and Dave Sjogren, and deputies Jim Iliff, Jen Lenarz and now-retired Sharon Drews.

Justin's father, Jim Hamilton, said the caring and compassion shown by the deputies helped his son to begin healing.

"They've done a really good job way over and above what the call of duty would be," added Justin's mother, Carolyn Hamilton.

Also honored Thursday were Deputy Matt Schuster and Sgt. Scott Durdall, who last December helped capture an armed man who was using a stolen car to ram squad cars, threatening to kill officers. The chase ended after suspect Roman Tokarev crashed that stolen car into a sheriff's squad car and was shot several times. He survived.

Other deputies honored in that case included Tim Gonder, Tim Samuelson, Matt Regis, Mike Fendrick, Matt Wayne, Amber Hentges and Sgt. Jim Gabriel.

Joy Powell • 952-882-9017