Three slain Minnesota first responders remembered for their commitment to service

Published 6:10 am Wednesday, February 21, 2024

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Two young police officers and a firefighter-paramedic were killed in a burst of gunfire Sunday as they responded to a domestic disturbance call in the Minneapolis suburb of Burnsville. Another officer also was injured, and the man identified as the shooter fatally shot himself, police said.

Here are the victims’ stories.


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Paul Elmstrand, 27, was the youngest of five children. He was raised on his family’s farm in North Branch, north of Minneapolis, where his parents, Rodney and Sara Elmstrand, mostly grow strawberries and pumpkins, his mother said Tuesday.

He enjoyed running cross-country as a boy and he chose to work in law enforcement because of his admiration for a family friend who was a state trooper, his mother said.

Elmstrand was class president at Cambridge-Isanti High School in Cambridge, a city of about 10,000 residents near North Branch. He graduated with a criminal justice degree from the University of Northwestern-St. Paul in 2018 and married his high school sweetheart, Cindy, the next year.

They had two children: Maria, 2, and Mateo, 6 months.

“He was the most generous, loving, patient person I’ve ever known with the biggest smile,” Cindy Elmstrand-Castruita said of her husband in a statement. “He had a servant’s heart and would drop everything to help someone who was in need.”

Elmstrand joined the Burnsville Police Department in 2017 as a community service officer, becoming a police officer in 2019. Among other roles, he was a member of the department’s mobile command staff.

Elmstrand also worked as a part-time officer with the University of Minnesota Police Department.

“He really loved people, and he loved Jesus.” said Sara Elmstrand. “He was a real people person who could talk to anyone. A great dad,. A great husband. I don’t think he had any enemies.”

Sara Elmstrand said her son’s funeral will be Saturday at Woodridge Community Church in Long Lake.


Most relatives of Burnsville Officer Matthew Ruge live in the Chicago area, but he and his family moved to Minnesota when he was a child, his cousin Josh Ruge said Tuesday via Facebook Messenger.

Ruge, who was 27, grew up in Wabasha, Minnesota, a city of about 2,500 people roughly 85 miles (137 kilometers) southeast of Minneapolis. A neighbor, Robin Gwaltney, recalled that he was kind and respectful, even at a young age.

“It was a pleasure to know him,” Gwaltney told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I’m so proud of what he turned out to be — such a wonderful young man. It’s just a darn shame.”

He graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Law Enforcement Program in 2018, the university said on its Facebook page. He joined the Burnsville police force in 2020. Ruge was part of the department’s crisis negotiations team and was a physical evidence officer.

Josh Ruge said the last he had heard about Matt was how happy his family was that his cousin wasn’t an officer in Minneapolis during the protests that followed the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd.

“And then this ends up happening to him anyways,” Josh Ruge said.

Gwaltney wasn’t surprised that Matt Ruge went into law enforcement.

“He was a young man who wanted to do nice things for people,” she told the newspaper.


Adam Finseth, 40, was an Army veteran with a long history of service to his country and community.

Finseth graduated from John Marshall High School in Rochester, Minnesota, in 2001. He served in the Army Reserve from February 2003 to October 2003, when he joined the regular Army. He served until February 2009, according to an email from Fonda Bock, a spokesperson for the U.S. Army Human Resources Command.

During his time in the Army, Finseth was twice deployed to Iraq — for a year starting in September 2005, and for 14 months beginning in September 2007. He earned 13 awards, including the Army Achievement Medal and Army Good Conduct Medal, and was promoted to staff sergeant in January 2008.

Finseth began his firefighting and paramedic career with the fire department in Hastings, southeast of Minneapolis, in 2015, the Pioneer Press reported. He later worked with the department in Savage, Minnesota, before going to Burnsville.

The Savage Fire Department said on Facebook that Finseth treated everyone with respect, empathy and compassion, and that he “embodied the true spirit of a firefighter. … His legacy is etched in the memories of those who served alongside him and characterized by his calm demeanor and unwavering support for his fellow team members.”

Finseth joined the Burnsville department as a firefighter and paramedic in February 2019, according to a news release from the city.

In his off time, Finseth coached youth baseball.

He was part of the Burnsville public safety team’s SWAT unit that was called to the scene of the domestic disturbance on Sunday. He was treating one of the injured officers when he was shot, police said.


Burnsville police Sgt. Adam Medlicott was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center after being shot. He was released from the hospital Monday.

Medlicott, 38, joined the police department in August 2014 and was promoted to sergeant in September 2022, the city said. He serves as a patrol sergeant, supervises community service officers and is a drug recognition expert, it said.

A city spokesperson said in an email that Medlicott was named Burnsville’s officer of the year in 2020.