Yesterday, tragically, Mendota Heights' most veteran police officer, 47-year-old Scott Patrick, became the first Minnesota officer killed in the line of duty since Cold Spring Officer Tom Decker was gunned down under mysterious circumstances in November 2012.
Patrick was shot in the head during a routine traffic stop on Dodd Road near Smith Avenue South just across Mendota Heights' border in West St. Paul around 12:20 p.m. Authorities believe 39-year-old Brian Fitch was the gunman. At this point there's no indication the two ever interacted with each other previously, but Fitch may have had a motive to open fire -- a warrant has been out for his arrest since last month, the Pioneer Press reports.
Patrick was a married father of two teenage daughters. A biker who witnessed the shooting from a nearby gas station and knew Patrick told the PiPress, "He was a damn good cop, by all means, and I don't even like cops... You know when you're in school and you have one of those teachers that always seems to sincerely care? He was that guy."
Fitch sped away from the scene in a green Pontiac Grand Am. Hours later, a vehicle believed to be Fitch's was spotted in a back yard near Sycamore and Rice streets in St. Paul. Following a chase that ended in that same area about 8 p.m., at least one injured person was removed by authorities from a silver van riddled with bullet holes, Fox 9 reports.
During a subsequent news conference, St. Paul police spokesperson Sgt. Paul Paulos said Fitch was driving with his girlfriend when he noticed officers and tried to evade them by doing a U-turn in a parking lot, but he was soon blocked off and opened fire. Officers returned fire, injuring Fitch and his girlfriend. They were both transported to Regions Hospital, where they're being treated for non-life-threatening injuries, according to Fox.
KSTP reports that a third person is in custody in connection to Patrick's shooting, but the circumstances of that arrest aren't immediately clear.
The Star Tribune reports that Fitch has previously been arrested for felony theft, prescription fraud, a felony drug offense, felony assault, and terroristic threats (among other arrests), and has convictions for burglary, terroristic threats, and marijuana possession. He's also "been to court several times for failing to pay or provide child support to several different women," the Strib writes.
After Patrick's death, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges released a statement saying, "This tragedy is a reminder that our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line for us each day."
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That sentiment was echoed by Gov. Mark Dayton, who added, "On behalf of all Minnesotans, I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues. We pray that they be given strength and solace during this terrible time."
Prior to Patrick's shooting, the last Twin Cities police officer to be killed in the line of duty was Maplewood Sergeant Joe Bergeron, who was ambushed in May 2010 by a suspect wanted following a botched dope buy and carjacking. In February of last year, St. Paul officer Josh Lynaugh died on the job of a heart attack.
A GoFundMe page created for Officer Patrick's family has already raised nearly $2,500 as of this morning.