First responders from throughout Minnesota and beyond converged Wednesday morning on an arena-sized church in Eden Prairie and joined grieving families and a mournful community to pay their respects to two police officers and firefighter/paramedic who were shot during an overnight standoff in a Burnsville neighborhood.

The memorial service for Burnsville officers Paul Elmstrand and Matthew Ruge, both 27, and firefighter/paramedic Adam Finseth, 40, filled Grace Church's 4,300-seat auditorium.

To accommodate everyone who either wanted to observe in some way the service or procession by the many law enforcement officers, fire department and paramedic personnel, livestreams carried the service that is viewable via smartphone or desktop computer, and communally at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville.

3:50 p.m. —The procession, led by the Burnsville Police Department, took more than an hour to pass Pax Christi Catholic Community Church in Eden Prairie. There were law enforcement and emergency responder vehicles from every corner of the state: Cook County, Duluth, Albert Lea, Mankato, Bemidji and Moorhead among them. Tribal police were represented as were officers from Wausau, Wis., and Fargo.

People on both sides of Pioneer Trail stood clustered by the dozens. Anyone with an American flag in gloved hand kept it raised as long as their weary arms would allow. The type of vehicles ran the responder gamut: police and deputy squads, firetrucks, and ambulances from fire departments and hospitals. Nearly all had their emergency lights flashing. Whoops from sirens blared on occasion.

2:51 p.m. — A BCA spokesperson said 1,468 vehicles made up the 21-mile procession.

2:31 p.m. — Near the end of the processional route, along Nicollet Avenue, municipal work trucks from all over the metro – Lakeville, Inver Grove Heights, Edina – marked intersections with their lights flashing.

At Burnsville City Hall, onlookers took in the memorial as they waited for the caravan to approach. Under three white tents, two squad cars and a firetruck were piled high with bouquets and Bible verses, stuffed animals and children's drawings, notes that expressed prayers, love, and gratitude; uniform patches from fellow officers and first responders.

A woman passed out bracelets that said "You are important!" while a bagpiper held his instrument silently in one arm and an American flag in the other.

2:15 p.m. — Outside Pax Christi Catholic Community Church in Eden Prairie, the first people arrived about 10 a.m. to watch the procession on its 21-mile journey to Burnsville. By 2 p.m., nearly two dozen vehicles were in the parking lot and occupied for warmth.

Tom Michaels, of Bloomington, who retired as a Hennepin County sheriff's deputy after 29 years, said he braved the cold because "the brotherhood is strong. It never leaves you."

"They could have been my own kids," said Lori Homyak of Shakopee. "They are around the same age as those officers."

Joe Frandsen of Eden Prairie spoke of three feelings as he waited for the procession: Honor, respect and anger toward the man responsible for the deaths of Ruge, Elmstrand and Finseth.

"Honor the fallen, and show respect for police because they don't get the respect they deserve," Frandsen said.

1:57 p.m. — Civilians crowded on the embankment craned their necks to see the three helicopters flyover the grounds. Moments later, the attendees filed out of the church into the cold below a clear blue sky.

1:40 p.m. — A BCA spokesperson says 10,000 people filled Grace Church, while 300-500 attended Prince of Peace Lutheran Church to watch the services. More than 20,000 watched the livestream.

1:38 p.m. — Among those paying their respects was a police contingent from western Wisconsin that lost two of their own in April 2023. Officers Emily Breidenbach, 32, of the Chetek Police Department, and Hunter Scheel, 23, of the Cameron Police Department, were shot to death during a traffic stop in Cameron. The shooter, Glenn Perry, died in the exchange of gunfire.

1:30 p.m.— The thousands then filtered outside for three rifle volleys, which will be followed by a flyover by helicopters from the State Patrol, LifeLink and North Memorial Health Hospital.

1:25 p.m. — As the service drew to a close, a police dispatcher's voice came over the PA system and offered the Last Call as is tradition when lives are lost in the line of duty.

"All units, stand by for final."

The badge numbers for Elmstrand, Ruge and Finseth followed.

"All units, Officer Matthew Ruge, Badge Number 183, Officer Paul Elmstrand Badge Number 45 176 and firefighter Adam Finseth, Badge Number 83, have answered their final call. These men responded together, laid down their lives for one another and died doing what they were called to do. The citizens of Burnsville will forever be in their debt. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten."

The call ended with, "May you forever rest in peace."

Video (01:43) Last Call is tradition when lives are lost in the line of duty.

12:57 p.m. — The congregation stood as honor guard members tolled a bell five times for each of the fallen. Then American flags – two on caskets for Elmstrand and Ruge and one for Finseth -- were folded in ceremony as bagpipes sent "Amazing Grace" echoing through the auditorium.

12:54 p.m. — Chaplain Mark Patrick led a prayer for the three and their families and colleagues. A firefighter read the Firefighters Prayer:

"When I am called to duty, God wherever flames may rage, give me strength to save a life, whatever be its age. Help me to embrace a little child before it's too late, or save an older person from the horror of that fate. Enable me to be alert to hear the weakest shout, and quickly and efficiently to put the fire out. I want to fill my calling and to give the best in me, to guard my neighbor and protect his property. And if according to your will I have to lose my life, bless with your protecting hand my loving family from strife."

12:43 p.m. — At Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, hundreds of people filled the dimly lit sanctuary to watch the livestreamed memorial. Some came in police or sheriff's deputy uniforms, in FIRE and EMT jackets, in suits, in scrubs, and Back the Blue T-shirts. Some knew the victims personally. Others shared their community of law enforcement officers and first responders, while others represented the community at large. Those in uniform who flanked the front door heard "thank you for your service" over and over as people streamed in. Attendees could have stayed home to see the livestream. But many wanted to watch it among others.

Kevin Huddleson said he came to Prince of Peace so the victims' families would see the community's support – the likes of which he'd never seen as a decades-long Burnsville resident.

"Turnout has been tremendous," he said.

Tami Clark came from Danbury, Wis., so her family could attend the livestream together. Her son is a police officer at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Interntional Airport and was in the Honor Guard with Elmstrand, whose death made the risks of public service so palpable.

"It could have been us," she said.

Laurie Boeser, of Burnsville, had been to the memorial at the police station before coming to Prince of Peace to pay her respects. Having a son who is 27, the same age as Paul Elmstrand and Matthew Ruge, she lamented how their young lives were cut short.

"Life's just beginning, and these young families are ruined for no reason," she said. "Tears continue to flow. This is something that our community has never experienced, as far as I can remember."

Family and friends read scriptures

12:25 p.m. — Scripture was read by an uncle, Michael Ruge, father Brad Finseth and Elmstrand's longtime friend Mike Seafolk.

"It's really hard and we're trying to wrap our heads around what happened," Michael Ruge, Matthew's uncle, said. "It makes no sense, it's confusing, it's really hard and it's really painful, we all lost someone here."

Adam Finseth's father, Brad Finseth, read the last of three Bible verses. Composed, he started by saying good morning to the gathering. Hearing no reply, he said, "I'd like get a response." He repeated the greeting and got the response he wanted.

Police and fire chiefs recall dedication, smiles

12:15 p.m. — Burnsville Fire Chief BJ Jungmann said Finseth embodied the definition of character through his dedication, honor and integrity through his service in the military, then as a firefighter and paramedic. "Adam was the epitome of honor. The profession itself is honorable," he said. "Adam had a propensity to seek out these honorable professions. He sought them out not for the glory but because he wanted to serve honorably. "Adam died helping his comrades without a second thought. I'm gonna miss him greatly."

Johannsen talked of Finseth as "one of the most selfless individuals I have ever had the privilege of knowing," and a man of integrity, honor and kindness in a world of cynicism. "He reminded us all that strength is not found in force or aggression, but in the quiet courage to stand up for what is right, even when difficult."

After delivering words of condolence to Finseth's wife and children, he said: "Adam, I know you're up there in heaven probably looking down and thinking this is all too much. Well brother, you deserve it. You were the best of us."

Police Chief Tanya Schwartz said that "Matt brought a smile and a positive attitude to his work every day. He was one of the department's hostage negotiators, a role her served in due to his calm demeanor, his great tone and his empathy. He was passionate about people suffering in crisis. Always humble and willing to go above and byond the call of duty. Matt served with passion to protect the vulnerable."

The chief pointed out that "Paul was a part of the department's honor guard, which truly became a passion for him. As you heard, he applied for the state's Law Enforcement Memorial Association honor guard, and was recently selected."

She said that Elmstrand "wanted to provide unwavering support to families, all the families of the fallen. The irony of that is not lost on me."

"You can't reason with evil"

11:45 a.m. — Sgt. Adam Medlicott, who was wounded in the shooting, spoke of supervising both Elmstrand and Ruge on nights and "standing with them on their final call."

In a moment of levity, he spoke of being Elmstrand's field training officer when they were dispatched to a theft at Macy's. There, Elmstrand saw an unoccupied vehicle and said " 'Look, it's the go-away vehicle!' "

"I just kind of looked at him for a moment in disbelief before saying, " 'It's get away car, Paul.' "

More recently, he said Elmstrand, a bright and and thoughtful officer, considered applying for a sergeant position. He would have made a great one, Medlicott said. In another instance, he was dispatched with Ruge to a call of a young woman who refused to leave her closet when she was supposed to start an addiction program that day. Reasoning with the woman was a "disaster," he said.

"After the call, Matt walked up to me and said, 'Thanks, Adam. Man, I really F'd that one up. He used the real word though." He then forwarded to Feb. 18 when he was standing next to Ruge as he negotiated with the man who would eventually take his life.

"You can't reason with evil. You didn't F this one up, Matt," Medlicott said. He acknowledged he didn't know Finseth as well and didn't have any stories to share, "but I saw you run into the line of fire to save me and my guys. You are the bravest guy I have ever known."

"We were there for seven children. Nothing could be more honorable. Rest easy, brothers."

11:40 a.m. — Officer Pete Mueller joined the force on the same day as Ruge and was on the scene of the shooting. Mueller said that Ruge was "extraordinarily heroic that morning. He negotiated for several hours, which bought us time. In law enforcement, we know that time is our threat. And the time that he delivered bought countless resources to the scene that protected many of us."

Then as the shooting erupted, Mueller continued, "the unthinkable happened, Matt his brought his partner Paul to safety, although he was hurt himself. Ruge repeatedly risked his life to save our friend. And in doing so, Matt made the ultimate sacrifice."

Ceremony begins with honor guard salute

11:28 a.m. — The proceedings began shortly after 11:20 a.m., with an honor guard on stage saluting portraits of the three. Flag-draped caskets for Elmstrand and Ruge were on the stage, along with a memorial for Finseth, whose casket was taken to Fort Snelling on Tuesday. Burnsville Police Chaplain Mark Patrick then offered a welcome and invocation, thanking those in attendance and others watching online.

Among the attendees: Gov. Tim Walz, Lt. Gov Peggy Flanagan, former Gov. Mark Dayton and House Speaker Melissa Hortman.

11:16 a.m. — As the 11 a.m. scheduled start time came and went, the auditorium fell silent. A church representative came out and advised attendees to keep mingling and visiting, followed by a boisterous round of laughter that offered a moment of levity to the solemn occasion.

More than 400 honor guard members from across the country and Canada are in attendance.

Officers given blue and red-tipped roses

10:55 a.m. — About 30 minutes before services were set to begin, officials said that all available space for attendees has been claimed. Earlier, organizers said capacity was roughly 7,600, but attendance swelled well beyond that. Officials had said they were expecting the service to be the largest in state history. Anyone wishing to view the remembrance is being directed to the livestream or to Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 13801 Fairview Dr., Burnsville.

9:34 a.m. — A few hundred police officers began to stream into the Grace Church auditorium and were handed blue- and red-tipped roses. On the stage stood photos of each of the fallen as the honor guard finalized their logistics on stage. A therapy dog greeted those in attendance.

A show of support

9:30 a.m. — Steve Depew, a retired Brown County Sheriff's Deputy, drove 90 minutes to stand outside the church entrance waving to squads in a show of support. He bought a mashup thin blue/red line flag on the internet for the occasion.

"Any one of them could be next," he said solemnly.

Depew, who served 28½ years at various Minnesota law enforcement agencies, said he's troubled by the nationwide police officer shortage, evidenced by the hundreds of open positions in Minnesota and a rapidly dwindling applicant pool.

Here is who will speak

9:26 a.m. — A four-page service program outlined the service specifics. Among the early speakers are Sgt. Adam Medlicott, who was wounded during the standoff, and Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz.

There are five eulogies scheduled, four of them from Burnsville police and fire leadership: Deputy Police Chief Matt Smith, Fire Capt. Brandon Johannsen, Police Chief Tanya Schwartz, and Fire Chief BJ Jungmann. Also eulogizing will be Burnsville police officer Pete Mueller.

The program includes photos of the three being mourned. Alongside each picture are their badge numbers and matching end of watch date. Page 4 has Burnsville police and fire department seals accompanied by the words "God Bless Those Who Are Called to Serve."

7,600 expected to attend services

8:13 a.m. — Every open space in the church was packed with chairs. Overflow areas in the building were outfitted with screens for viewing.

While the auditorium holds about 4,300 and a chapel another 400, church officials say they are expecting 7,600 attendees throughout the building. Nearly every spot for viewing is being reserved for law enforcement and civilian staff from the city of Burnsville. Public safety vehicles are expected to arrive shortly.

Contingents from law enforcement agencies across the state began arriving at the church. They marched in together under a massive American flag suspended by two firetrucks, their breath visible in the frigid morning air.

Star Tribune staff photographer Aaron Lavinsky contributed to this story. Madison Roth is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.