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At candlelight vigil and in words, slain officer mourned

Gail Krull of West St. Paul, Minn., a niece of Mendota Heights, Minn., police officer Scott Patrick, cries as she lays a bouquet of roses on a makeshift memorial during a candlelight vigil at the location where Patrick was shot and killed in West St. Paul on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS/John Autley

WEST ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Hundreds of people paid their respects Wednesday evening at a candlelight vigil at the scene of the shooting that cut down a Mendota Heights police officer just hours earlier.

Many placed flowers and other mementoes at a curbside memorial at Dodd Road and Smith Avenue in West St. Paul, where officer Scott Patrick was fatally shot just before 12:30 p.m. during a traffic stop.

Tammy LaBathe-Olson said she would see Patrick at the nearby Holiday convenience store while he was on break. She said he would give her advice to pass on to her 22-year-old son, who is considering a career in law enforcement.

“He said it’s not about the money,” said LaBathe-Olson of West St. Paul. “It’s about protecting and serving.”

Indeed, Patrick was described by colleagues as a “dedicated police officer,” one who never hesitated to help out his fellow officers.

With 19 years of service, the 47-year-old was the department’s most senior officer. The husband and father of two teenage daughters spent much of his tenure on the force as a patrol officer.

Mendota Heights Mayor Sandra Krebsbach said Patrick was the city’s first officer to die in the line of duty. His death is a devastating loss to the city and the department, Krebsbach said.

“He was a very dedicated officer,” Krebsbach said. “He was jovial … had an easygoing disposition. ... (This is) hard on everyone.”

Mendota Heights police officer Tanner Spicer brought members of Patrick’s family to the vigil. He said they wanted their privacy, yet also wanted to be there.

Patrick, who worked the day shift, was “fun to work with,” Spicer said. “He was always very witty, very funny. He was always quick to crack a joke, crack a smile.”

The Rev. John Snider of St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in West St. Paul recalled how Patrick would pick up his daughters from confirmation classes in his squad car.

“They would have to sit in the back,” he said at the vigil. “He was a good man.”

During the vigil, word spread about the arrest in St. Paul of the suspect in Patrick’s killing. Someone yelled, “They got him!” The crowd cheered.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who attended the vigil, said in a statement: “Officer Patrick died while protecting people in our communities — and this is a tragic loss for all of us.”

Dennis Kiesow, a business agent for Law Enforcement Labor Services, described Patrick as an “outgoing” leader who was quick to smile.

In addition to his patrol duties, he served for many years as his department’s union steward, Kiesow said.

“He would go to bat for any of his fellow officers,” Kiesow said.

Before his career in Mendota Heights, Patrick served on the Shakopee Police Department from 1992 to 1995, Shakopee police Sgt. Derek Nordtvedt said.

Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell, who lives in Mendota Heights, recalled meeting Patrick at a school function years ago. The two went on to see each other at various community events and professional gatherings.

Schnell called his death a “horrible loss.”

“I think that this is something every (peace officer) dreads,” he said. “I just feel so sad for his family and for the department and for Mendota Heights. … As a resident, he is one of my police.”

The killing serves as a reminder of the risks officers face, Schnell said, even while working in what he described as “exceedingly safe communities.”

“He was an officer just trying to do a job and he ends up being shot … it’s just immensely difficult when these things happen,” Schnell said.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.