A shaken Minnesota community gets some answers on the killings of 2 officers and 1 firefighter

Feb 18, 2024, 10:14 PM | Updated: Feb 20, 2024, 9:26 am

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — It started out as a 911 call about a domestic incident. It ended with two police officers, a firefighter and the suspect dead, a third officer wounded, and a suburb of Minneapolis badly shaken and waiting for answers.

Agents with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension were still conducting their preliminary investigation into Sunday’s shooting, spokesperson Bonney Bowman said Monday. They planned to share more information once that was complete.

That meant that several key questions remained unanswered. While the BCA named the suspect Monday evening, it has not said what prompted the 911 call early Sunday from a home in a wooded, well-to-do neighborhood of single-family homes on curvy streets in Burnsville, a city of around 64,000 located about 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of downtown Minneapolis.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office said Monday afternoon that Officers Paul Elmstrand and Matthew Ruge, both 27, and Adam Finseth, 40, a firefighter and paramedic who was assigned to the city’s SWAT team, died of gunshot wounds in the emergency room at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis shortly after 6:30 a.m. Sunday.

The BCA said Monday that the man who killed them was Shannon Gooden, 38, of Burnsville. The medical examiner said Tuesday that he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Court records show that Gooden wasn’t legally allowed to have guns and had been entangled in a yearslong dispute over the custody and financial support of his three oldest children.

A procession of emergency vehicles escorted Finseth’s body from the medical examiner’s office in Minnetonka to a funeral home in Jordan on Monday afternoon, passing under several bridges where firefighters stood on their parked engines and flew American flags in tribute.

BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said Sunday that Burnsville police were called to the home around 1:50 a.m. Sunday about a “domestic situation where a man was reported to be armed and barricaded with family members in the home.” That included seven children ages 2 to 15 years. Evans declined to say which resident called. Arriving officers “spent quite a bit of time” negotiating with Gooden, he said.

At some point — he declined to specify when — Gooden opened fire, killing the two officers and the firefighter. Another officer, Sgt. Adam Medlicott, survived with injuries that were not life-threatening. He was released from a hospital and was recovering at home Monday, the city said.

Elmstrand’s wife, Cindy Elmstrand-Castruita, told WCCO-TV that her husband “had to do what he thought was right to protect those little lives, even if it meant putting his at risk and it breaks my heart because now he’s gone. But I know that he thought what he did was right.”

Elmstrand joined the police department in 2017 and was a member of its mobile command staff. Ruge, hired in 2020, was on the department’s crisis negotiations team and was a physical evidence officer. Finseth, who had been with the fire department since 2019, was shot while aiding the first officer who was injured, Evans said. Medlicott, who joined the police department in 2014, supervises community service officers and is a drug recognition expert.

“Several officers” returned fire during the exchange, Evans said. Gooden fired from multiple places on both floors of the home. At least one officer was shot inside. An armored SWAT team vehicle sustained bullet damage to its windshield.

Evans said Gooden was armed with “several guns and large amounts of ammunition,” though he declined to provide details.

Neighbors were startled awake by loud pops about an hour before sunrise. Alicia McCullum, who lives two houses down from the source of the commotion, told The Associated Press that she and her family dropped to the floor.

“I didn’t think it was a gunshot at first, but then we opened the windows and we saw police everywhere and police hiding in our neighbors’ yards,” McCullum said. “Then there were three more gunshots.”

The man was “reported to be deceased in the home” around 8 a.m., Evans said, and the children and other family members were later able to escape. McCullum said she saw a woman and a few children escorted out of the home.

The superintendent declined to say how long officers negotiated with Gooden, but the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association said the standoff lasted for four hours before the SWAT team entered the home.

Investigators will review body camera and other videos, conduct interviews and gather all available evidence as they determine what happened, he said.

“I know everybody wants to know exactly what occurred and really what led up to these really terrible events that occurred today,” Evans told reporters. “But I ask that you have patience as we work through that to piece together everything so that we can to provide the answers in due time.”

Gov. Tim Walz ordered that flags be flown at half-staff at all state-owned buildings. Members of the Minnesota House and Senate stood with bowed heads for moments of silence Monday.

“Our police officers and medics and fire, they come to work every day,” said Rep. Jeff Witte, of Lakeville, who served in the Burnsville Police Department for 27 years. “They do it willingly to protect and serve our communities, knowing that they may have to give up their life for a partner or the community. And if you’re not in the profession, you can’t understand: the goal is to go home to their families.”


Associated Press reporters Jack Dura in Bismarck, North Dakota, and John Hanna in Wichita, Kansas, contributed to this story.

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A shaken Minnesota community gets some answers on the killings of 2 officers and 1 firefighter