Thousands gather to remember slain deputy

Published 2:08 pm Saturday, October 24, 2015

AITKIN — More than 3,000 people, including 2,000 law officers, gathered inside a high school gym in Aitkin Friday to pay tribute to a sheriff’s deputy killed in the line of duty.

Aitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Steven Sandberg was killed Sunday at St. Cloud Hospital after a man he was monitoring grabbed his firearm and shot him.

He was remembered Friday as a quiet person with a warm smile. He also was remembered for his inner strength.

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“Looking back, I think my dad always tried to get across that having strength didn’t mean showing it outward to everyone,” his daughter, Cassie, said, “But using that inner strength to have inner confidence and then channeling it to help others.”

Sandberg, 60, was a 24-year veteran of the sheriff’s department. He was also a volunteer firefighter for 17 years.

Sheriff Scott Turner looked at the packed gym and said that kind of attention “was not Steve.”

He was “the most unassuming man,” Turner said. “Sorry, buddy, you’ve earned all this and more.”

Law officers began arriving for Sandberg’s funeral early Friday. Departments from as far away as Canada and New York City sent representatives to Aitkin.

Aitkin, north of Lake Mille Lacs, was adorned with flags and blue and black ribbons. Signs posted in stores around town said, “A hero remembered never dies.”

“It’s a tough day for Aitkin,” said Mayor Gary Tibbitts. “We’ve never lost an officer like this before. Now the community will wrap themselves around Kristi and Cassie.”

Sandberg was shot by 50-year-old Danny Hammond, who was in the hospital after an apparent suicide attempt. Authorities said Hammond had kidnapped and terrorized his wife and was facing multiple felonies.

Investigators said Hammond jumped from his hospital bed and attacked Sandburg, grabbing his gun. Hammond died shortly after the shooting. He was subdued by a hospital security guard with a stun gun.