A Wayzata police officer was struck and killed Friday on a west metro highway while trying to remove debris from the road.

Officer William Mathews, 47, had pulled his marked squad car over to the side of eastbound Hwy. 12 to remove debris at about 12:30 p.m. when he was struck by a car, said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek.

Stanek delivered the somber news at a Friday afternoon news conference alongside Wayzata Police Chief Mike Risvold and Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matt Langer.

The driver of the car, Beth Freeman, 54, of Mound, stopped immediately and was cooperative, Stanek said. She was being held Friday in the Hennepin County jail on probable cause of criminal vehicular homicide. According to court records, she has an extensive criminal history that includes driving violations and drug possession.

Risvold, taking a deep breath and choking back emotion, spoke about a family and community in grief.

"This is an enormously sad day, and we pray for Bill and his family," he said.

He delivered a short remembrance of Mathews. "He was one of the good ones, for sure," he said.

Langer said the State Patrol will reconstruct the crash and file a comprehensive report, a process that could take weeks. "We'll put it together like a giant puzzle," he said.

Both he and Stanek said their thoughts and prayers were with the Wayzata police.

First responders arrived soon after the crash and began lifesaving efforts, but Mathews was pronounced dead at the hospital, Stanek said.

"This is a tough day for the law enforcement community," Langer said.

Mathews, who had been with the department for nine years, was married and the father of a 7-year-old boy, authorities said.

He graduated from Pine Island High School and went on to attend Rochester Community College. He graduated from Winona State University with a bachelor of science degree in law enforcement. Before serving as a licensed office, Mathews worked as an intern for the Rochester Police Department and as a reserve office for the Winona Police Department.

In 1998, Mathews became a licensed officer with the Zumbrota Police Department. He also worked part time with the Olmsted and Goodhue County Sheriff's Offices.

During his time with the Wayzata Police Department, Mathews was a firearms instructor, a field training officer, and a reserve coordinator, the department said.

A moment of silence

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo asked those attending his Friday swearing-in ceremony for a moment of silence for the Wayzata officer.

In Wayzata, flags flew at half staff at the Police Department.

"It's very sad. It's very tragic," Wayzata City Council Member Dan Koch said.

The eastbound lanes of Hwy. 12, where the crash occurred, were closed at County Road 6 for several hours, but reopened for the evening commute.

After the crash, a livestream from a WCCO traffic helicopter showed a silver van or sports-utility vehicle with front-end damage stopped on the right side of the road. Its air bags had deployed, and the windshield was badly damaged.

Staff writer Karen Zamora contributed to this report.

mlsmith@startribune.com 612-673-4788

miguel.otarola@startribune.com 612-673-4753