Nothing can prepare a police department for the tragedy that we experienced with the loss of officer Bill Mathews on Sept. 8. Similarly, nothing can prepare a police department for the outpouring of care, generosity and support that we’ve received since then. Our community and our law enforcement brothers and sisters are simply amazing. On behalf of our police department and the city of Wayzata, thank you!
We are thankful for the outpouring of support shown by the communities of Wayzata and Long Lake. Residents and businesses have donated meals, snacks, flowers, crafts and gifts to honor Bill. The cards, letters, e-mails and care packages keep coming in. The support we feel from our community is overwhelming. That support doesn’t stop at our city’s borders. We’ve heard from people across our region and state, and from across the country. Thank you!
We will forever be indebted to our neighboring police agencies who stepped up while we were down. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office handled calls for service in Wayzata and Long Lake for eight days. In responding to our thanks, Sheriff Rich Stanek simply expressed his agency’s sorrow for our loss and asked that we make sure we take care of our officers and their families. Their efforts over those eight days allowed us to begin to do just that. Thank you!
Our local police neighbors were also our heroes. Officer Mathews’ tragic death occurred just hours before the kickoff of James J. Hill Days. Police chiefs, command staff members, support staff members and officers from many agencies assisted in getting us through the weekend of activities, including two concerts and more than 50,000 people in town. They didn’t just assist us, they were us. They did it all! Police departments from Plymouth, Minnetonka, Maple Grove, Eden Prairie, Orono and South Lake Minnetonka staffed the three-day event. Officers from 25 police agencies across Hennepin County walked in the James J. Hill Days parade to honor Mathews. Thank you!
Officers from Wayzata, the Twin Cities metro area and around the state stood guard over Mathews from the time he passed away at North Memorial Health Hospital to the time he was buried at Summit Park Cemetery. Whether at the hospital, the medical examiner’s office, the funeral home or the church, honor guards were at Bill’s side 24 hours a day for six consecutive days. Plymouth police officers were similarly at Mathews’ home watching over his family 24 hours a day for six consecutive days. Thank you!
The Law Enforcement Memorial Association (LEMA) provided the template for planning and preparation for Mathews’ visitation and funeral. Hundreds of people from multiple disciplines including police, fire, EMS, public works, LEMA and others did the planning. As the commander of LEMA stated, this was the most logistically challenging of the 34 police funerals he has been involved with. What a wonderful tribute to Mathews and his family. A 74 year-old friend wrote, “I’ve seen presidents’ funerals without as much class.” Thank you!
And finally, to the dozens and dozens of first responders, doctors, nurses and others who did everything in their power to save Bill from injuries that were ultimately not survivable, thank you for all of your efforts on Sept. 8. You are the unsung heroes in a tragedy such as this. You carry the pain of that day in a way most will never understand. Thank you for all that you did on that day. God bless you for all that you do every day.
We will forever be indebted.
Mike Risvold is chief of the Wayzata Police Department.