Mourning for a Wayzata police officer who died in the line of duty last summer will take various forms in the next few days.
William Mathews will be remembered Friday in a Hennepin County courtroom, where a 54-year-old Mound woman will hear her sentence for running over the officer while she was under the influence of drugs, on her cellphone and driving with a revoked license.
On Sunday and again Tuesday, candlelight vigils are scheduled at the U.S. and state capitals, where Mathews’ name will echo with others who have died wearing a law enforcer’s badge.
Wayzata Police Chief Mike Risvold, fellow officers and Mathews’ family will be in court Friday when Judge Tamara Garcia imposes the consequences for Beth I. Freeman as spelled out in a plea agreement with prosecutors: a term of slightly more than eight years, with roughly two-thirds of that time in prison and the balance on supervised release.
Some among the contingent will make statements expressing their sorrow over the sudden loss of the 47-year-old Mathews, who was clearing debris at midday on Sept. 8 from Hwy. 12 when Freeman struck him.
After the hearing, Mathews’ colleagues and loved ones will make final preparations to travel to Washington, D.C., ahead of Sunday’s candlelight vigil on the National Mall, where his name and those of 359 others killed in the line of duty will be formally dedicated on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
“We’re doing everything we can to honor Bill,” Chief Risvold said as he outlined the busy and emotional few days ahead. “That’s the bottom line. We are referred to as first-year survivors as a police department and the family. It’s important to be there to honor all of the 360 officers being added to the wall.”
Members of the Wayzata Police Department will have the opportunity to speak during Freeman’s sentencing to tell her the impact of her actions eight months ago.
Risvold said, “I’ve made that opportunity available to officers in the department.”
The chief said that reaching a plea agreement leaves him “pleased that we will not be going to trial.”
“It seems fair” is how he sized up Freeman’s punishment, given the state’s current sentencing guidelines for criminal vehicular homicide.
Freeman will travel under escort from Shakopee Prison to downtown Minneapolis, changing from her inmate’s garb into civilian clothing for sentencing. At the time of the crash, she was serving three years’ probation for a 2016 drug conviction. Her involvement in the crash violated the terms of her probation and sent her to prison in mid-November to begin serving what had been a stayed 17-month sentence.
Defense attorney Andrea R. Anderson declined to speak until after sentencing.
Nation honors, mourns
Sunday marks the 30th annual candlelight vigil on the National Mall in the memory of 129 officers “who made the ultimate sacrifice” during 2017 and another 231 deaths from years past that have been documented recently, said Steve Groeninger, spokesman for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Wayzata’s contingent is substantial, 43 people in all: eight police officers and two department administrators and their families; Officer Mathews’ wife, Shawn, and son, Wyatt, who was 7 years old when he lost his father.
“In certain respects, this will be like attending another funeral,” the chief said, “and that’s going to be difficult.”
Remarks will be delivered by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. All of the new names will be read aloud for the 20,000 or so people expected to attend.
“The annual candlelight vigil allows participants and guests to be surrounded by the strength and support of the law enforcement community, as we honor the officers who sacrificed their lives for the protection of ours,” said Craig Floyd, the memorial fund’s CEO.
Risvold said no tax dollars are being spent on the group’s travels. Officers who volunteered to make the trip are using vacation time.
All expenses are being covered by the Minnesota chapter of the Renegade Pigs Motorcycle Club, a national nonprofit of active and retired law enforcement officers and firefighters.
Mathews’ name also will be read aloud Tuesday, National Law Enforcement Day, as will all the others in Minnesota history who have died in the line of duty. The solemn ceremony will be at the state’s Law Enforcement Memorial near the Capitol in St. Paul.
Officers from around the state take turns participating in a 24-hour honor guard starting Monday night until the ceremony’s candlelight vigil, which begins with Honor Guard units from across the state marching together across the Wabasha Bridge and up to the memorial. The units then stand at rest while vigil attendees hold candles for Officers Mathews and the 279 others who died protecting their communities.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482