Burnsville, MN, Medic, Officers Remembered for Ultimate Sacrifice

Feb. 29, 2024
Thousands packed a church to honor a Burnsville paramedic/firefighter and two police officers gunned down while serving their community.

Eder Campuzano

Star Tribune


Thousands of mourners packed Grace Church in Eden Prairie on Wednesday for the memorial honoring the three Burnsville first responders who died in the line of duty in mid-February.

Burnsville police officers Paul Elmstrand, 27, Matthew Ruge, 27, and firefighter-paramedic Adam Finseth, 40, were shot and killed while responding to a domestic dispute in the Dakota County city. The joint memorial service featured speeches and eulogies that touched on the contributions each of the slain first responders made to the community.

Burnsville police Sgt. Adam Medlicott, who was wounded during the standoff, spoke briefly after Chaplain Mark Patrick and Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz welcomed mourners.

"We were there for seven children," Medlicott said to honor his fallen colleagues. "Nothing can be more honorable. Rest easy, brothers."

Below are selected portions of the eulogies for Elmstrand, Finseth and Ruge.

Paul Elmstrand 1996 - 2024

It's cliché, sometimes, in the time of tragedy to say that these were the nicest people. But in this case, it's true. These three men really were the nicest people. That's why I was honored when Paul's close friends asked if I would say a few words about him.

I found it comforting over the last week to find that many of the things I would say about Paul have also been said by his family and closest friends.

This tells me that these aren't just words but truly embodied who Paul was. First of these attributes was Paul's laugh. Paul's laugh was infectious. And it's been said that perhaps Paul's favorite comedian to induce this laugh was — Paul.

Paul also was an avid watcher and, we have learned, re-watcher of the television show "The Office." Last week when we met with Cindy, she asked if she could grab a few things from his desk. True to Paul, there were a number of "The Office" references in his cabinet.

There was also what appeared to be an empty milk bottle with some hand-written notes on the side. Cindy looked up at the chief and I as if to say, "What's this about?"

With all of the confidence I could muster, I looked back at Cindy and said: "No idea."

But I know that whatever that bottle was about meant something to Paul and his friends. And now it means something to Cindy.

Another recurring theme this week has been Paul's dedication to honoring fallen officers. For those who don't know, LEMA, or the Law Enforcement Memorial Association, is the group that helps put on services like this one here today.

Recently, Paul applied for a spot in the LEMA honor guard. I happened to run into Paul as he was coming back from a part of the selection process.

He was so excited and proud to apply and be a part of the LEMA honor guard. I'm told that he would often polish his boots or practice formations and movements in the family living room. Paul was notified just a few weeks ago that he had made the LEMA honor guard team, where he would have honored the fallen as we are doing today.

Paul truly was one of the nicest guys. We're going to miss him.

— Burnsville Deputy Police Chief Matt Smith

Paul was part of the department's honor guard, which truly became a passion for him. As you heard, so much so he applied for the Law Enforcement Memorial Association honor guard. And he was recently selected. He wanted to provide unwavering support for families — all the families of the fallen.

The irony of that is not lost on me.

Matt and Paul loved being police officers. They did the job selflessly, with integrity, honor and courage. They knew the dangers but it never deterred them.

— Burnsville Police Chief Tanya Schwartz

Read Elmstrand's obituary here.

Adam Finseth 1983 - 2024

Adam was a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a friend and more. He was also a soldier, a firefighter, and a paramedic. Adam was one of the most selfless individuals I ever had the privilege of knowing. He possessed the ability to put others' well-being before his own, always ensuring that everyone around him felt seen, heard and cared for.

His compassion knew no bounds and his unwavering commitment to the happiness and comfort of those he cared for and loved was truly extraordinary. Opening up to Adam was like opening up to a sanctuary of trust and empathy and understanding.

He had an unparalleled knack for sensing when something wasn't quite right. His genuine concern for the welfare of others often led to heartfelt conversations and lengthy discussions.

Adam was a man of honor, integrity and kindness. You never heard him speak ill of anyone. In a world where cynicism and self-interest often prevail, Adam stood as a testament to the power of goodness and true selflessness.

Not only was Adam dedicated to the job, but most importantly, he was dedicated to his family.

To you, Tara, I am honored and humbled to have spent these last days with you and your family. I'm deeply sorry for your loss. Please know that Adam's bravery, courage and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Liam, Nora: I need to tell you that your papa is a hero. He loves you very much.

It's OK to feel sad and miss him. Remember that even though he's not here with us today, he will always be with you and live in our hearts forever.

You were the best of us. We love you, we miss you, we promise to take care of the family and each other. Your legacy and impact will live on forever.

— Fire Captain Brandon Johannsen

As the fire chief, it is my responsibility to ensure we hire the highest quality people with impeccable character traits to serve the community. In our department, we do this by using our four cultural values to guide who we hire, what we expect and how we act.

Our four cultural values are: Character, communication, collaboration and competence. Adam was exemplary of these four cultural values.

Adam displayed extreme dedication to the department. Being a firefighter-paramedic was not enough for him. He took on additional roles. Adam was a very active member of our health and wellness committee, which focused on taking care of our firefighters so they can better care for themselves both physically and mentally.

Adam's consistency of character is the definition of integrity.

He treated everyone in the community as he would want to treat his own family. We don't know someone's character and how they will respond until they are tested as I observed, and I worked alongside Adam in his career as a firefighter-paramedic. And what we all know about the actions during the final moments of his life, I can say without reservation: Firefighter-paramedic Adam Finseth was tried, he was tested, and he was found worthy.

— Fire Chief BJ Jungmann


Read Finseth's obituary here.

Matthew Ruge 1997 - 2024


Matt Ruge and I began our careers with the Burnsville Police Department in April 2020. We were sworn in together and we became pals. Badge No. 183 was pinned on Matt's chest and I received 184, which made him my senior officer. And, on occasion, he would remind me of this.

He and I started at a unique time, which coincided with a pandemic and unrest. And Ruge rose up to these challenges and he reaffirmed his commitment to service. His sense of humor and unwavering desire to make a difference immediately earned my respect.

He earned the nickname "Roguey," because he would often go rogue by self-assigning calls outside of his designated area. In 2022, Matt sought a new challenge when he bid the night shift. He made dear friends. He learned from them, he backed them, trained with them, hung out with them, gamed with them.

His partners, sergeants, investigators found him to be extremely reliable and consistent. And Ruge earned another nickname: The Book.

And that's because he went by the book in every situation.

I think the entire department would attest that it was impossible not to like Ruge. He was smart, self-deprecating, quick-witted, humble, and last year I watched Matt become a trustworthy resource for his partners both old and new.

(Those) touched by Matt and his passing must know, as Sgt. Medlicott said, he was extraordinarily heroic that morning. He negotiated for several hours, which bought us time. And in law enforcement we know that time is our friend. The time he delivered brought countless resources to the scene, which protected many of us.

The loss his family and friends feel is unbearable. And at the same time it is true that Ruge left us with remarkable gifts. Many of the things I've already mentioned: His authenticity, his work ethic, his playfulness, his sense of humor, his selflessness.

His trustworthiness, integrity and commitment to service. And all of these gifts he's given us are good things. And if we follow Matt's example, then we become better people for it. And if we become better people for it, then that makes Ruge a bigger hero than he already is.

Thank you for these gifts. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for having our backs. We love you and we'll miss you so much.

— Burnsville Police officer Pete Mueller

Matt brought a smile and a positive attitude to his work every day. He was one of the department's hostage negotiators, a role he served in due to his calm demeanor, his great tone, and his empathy. He was passionate about helping people suffering in crisis, always humble and willing to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Matt served with compassion to protect the vulnerable.

— Burnsville Police Chief Tanya Schwartz


Read Ruge's obituary here.


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