Burnsville, MN, Firefighter First in State to be Shot and Killed in Line-of-Duty

Feb. 21, 2024
Burnsville Firefighter/Paramedic Adam Finseth is being remembered as a patient, observant leader.

Erin Adler

Star Tribune


Those who knew Adam Finseth, the firefighter-paramedic who was shot and killed while tending to victims at a domestic violence call in Burnsville, remembered him as friendly and always ready to help others. He brimmed with a sense of purpose and confidence that made others feel good, too.

Finseth, 40, and two Burnsville police officers were fatally shot Sunday after a standoff at a Burnsville home where a heavily armed man had barricaded himself with a woman and seven children. Finseth, a paramedic with the police SWAT unit, died after being shot in the torso and arm.

Matt Arnold, a friend dating back to Finseth's elementary school days in the Rochester area, remembered Finseth as having a deep connection to many people, along with a great sense of humor and humility.

"If you were having a bad day or whatever, he's going to be the one who will brighten it," Arnold said.

Arnold was a lifeguard with Finseth after they both graduated from Rochester's John Marshall Senior High School in 2001. Both men went on to attend Rochester Community and Technical College. After 9/11, Finseth was looking for his purpose in life and enlisted in the U.S. Army.

Finseth went on to serve during Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to his LinkedIn page.

"He wanted to serve," Arnold said. "He had this purpose."

While in the military, Finseth married his wife, Tara. Arnold remembered Finseth's parents as being kind and welcoming to their son's friends, treating them like family. That nurturing spirit helped shape Finseth as he became a husband and father. He had two elementary-school-age children, a boy and a girl, Arnold said.

Finseth was the friend everyone could count on, and he worked to maintain connections to friends in high school and other parts of his life. He never took himself too seriously, Arnold said.

"He was like the most selfless guy in the world," Arnold said.

After working for the cities of Savage and Hastings, Finseth was hired in Burnsville in 2019.

To Savage Fire Chief Jeremie Bresnahan, Finseth "embodied the true spirit of a firefighter," showing others respect, empathy and compassion, the chief wrote in an email sent to city staff and shared with the Star Tribune. Finseth worked as a paid on-call firefighter for Savage for more than six years.

"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," Bresnahan wrote. "Adam's impact on our department and community will be remembered, and his selfless service inspires us all."

Todd Burke was the director of the Tactical Emergency Medical Services School that Finseth attended in 2021 to train for his role with the SWAT officers.

"We noticed him from the very beginning because he always had a smile and kind word," Burke said. "When you put an individual like that on a team, he lifts everybody up."

Attendees of the training program — a vigorous 77-hour course held over six days at Camp Ripley in Little Falls, Minn. — are divided into four teams when they arrive, Burke said.

Finseth, who was fun and outgoing but not goofy, was chosen by his peers to lead one of the teams. He mentored less-experienced teammates, Burke said, including Burke's own teenage daughter, who was also enrolled in the class.

"It was about helping the person next to you succeed," Burke said. "You have to accept you're putting yourself at risk in a life-threatening environment to save potentially savable lives."

Fiona Burke, a first responder who trained with Finseth, described him as a "very patient, observant leader" during the program. Finseth's role as a father likely made him more patient with team members, she said, adding that she later stayed in touch with him through social media.

GoFundMe fundraiser for Finseth's family had raised more than $60,000 by Tuesday afternoon. Organizer and friend Jordan Doring called Finseth a "beloved father and loving husband" who "cherished his family above all else and worked tirelessly to provide them with love, support, and security."

The Law Enforcement Labor Services is coordinating a fundraiser that will deliver funds directly to the three men's families, according to a Burnsville spokesperson.

"He was just an amazing human," Arnold said. "He's just a hero."

Editor's note: The Star Tribune will publish separate, individual obituaries for Paul Elmstrand and Matthew Ruge, the two Burnsville police officers killed in the same incident. Those will be posted on Wednesday at StarTribune.com.

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