Honoring the fallen peace officers of Anoka County

It has been over eight-and-a-half years since Lino Lakes Police Officer Shawn Silvera was struck and killed on I-35 while deploying stop sticks to halt a vehicle police were pursuing. His widow, Jennifer Silvera Lindemer, remembers him every day and often shares stories with the two children they had together.

Anoka County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Troy Edmond salutes in memory of sheriff’s office deputy Rich Legler, who died Aug. 9, 1986. Photos by Eric Hagen

Anoka County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Troy Edmond salutes in memory of sheriff’s office deputy Rich Legler, who died Aug. 9, 1986. Photos by Eric Hagen

At noon, Wednesday, May 14, Jennifer and many others came to the Anoka County Government Center to remember the seven fallen officers of Anoka County law enforcement departments. It is an annual tradition done the week in which May 15 falls, which President John F. Kennedy designated as National Peace Officer Memorial Day in 1962.

“It’s a wonderful remembrance,” Jennifer said. “After so many years, sometimes you expect life to go back to normal. But it’s a new normal. To incorporate this loss in daily life is important and it is important to honor these officers by living the best life.”

Jennifer re-married three years ago and her husband has been very supportive, she said. The two children Jennifer and Shawn had together are now 10 and 9 years old and she always wants them to feel free to ask about their father.

Silvera is the most recent Anoka County law enforcement officer who has been killed in the line of duty. He died Sept. 6, 2005.

Not far from where this May 14 memorial ceremony was happening was where Columbia Heights Police Officer Curtis Ramsdell was killed July 30, 1977.

At the May 14 fallen officers memorial, Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart read the story of Ramsdell and the man who killed him, which was researched by retired Columbia Heights Police Chief Tom Johnson and retired sheriff’s office Capt. Larry Klink.

Ramsdell was transporting a drunk driver and his disorderly passenger to the Anoka County Jail. He did not know that the passenger, Walton James French, had a .25 caliber automatic pistol in his right back pocket and was able to get a hold of it even though his arms were handcuffed behind his back.

As Ramsdell opened the back door of the squad car and reached in to help French out of the vehicle, French got off a shot at Ramsdell’s abdomen. An Anoka County deputy was injured as a second bullet ricochet off the jail building as another officer tried to wrestle the gun away.

Ramsdell was pronounced dead at Mercy Hospital at 5:35 a.m. July 30, 1977.

French pled guilty to second-degree murder and served eight of the maximum 12-year sentence. He continued to live in Columbia Heights. He was later returned to prison to serve his remaining four years after he was caught using drugs. In 2001, French returned to prison for a parole violation.

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 105 officers nationwide were killed in the line of duty in 2013.

This included St. Paul Police Officer Joshua Phillip Lynaugh, who died of a heart attack Feb. 16, 2013 at the age of 30. Eight days prior, he suddenly became ill and was transported to a local hospital after he had ran after and caught a suspect.

Across the nation, the three leading causes of officer fatalities in 2013 were gunfire (30), automobile accident (25), and heart attack (10).

An officer honor guard marched around the courthouse before coming inside to present the colors. Three deputies took part in a rifle inspection demonstration to signify the “end of watch,” which is a metaphor for an officer who is killed.

Guest speaker Kevin Whitlock serves as honor guard administrative and caisson lieutenant for the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association. He spoke about what happens before and during a memorial service and noted that despite what department’s uniforms they wear, there will always be a connection between all police officers.

“As you look around you today, you see many different uniforms and a number of law enforcement agencies represented, but there is a special sense of unity here, a kindred spirit that ties us together,” Whitlock said.

Blaine Police Capt. Dan Szykulski read the names of each of the seven fallen Anoka County officers as someone placed a flower and ribbon on a memorial wreath. “Taps” was played and the honor guard and officers were dismissed, but not before Stuart asked everyone to “always honor and to never forget these heroes who gave their all and the families who were left behind.”

Anoka County fallen officers

Verl C. Whinery, Anoka Police Department, Jan. 18, 1947.

Ernest Zettergren, Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, Dec. 7, 1953.

Gerald Boos, St. Francis Police Department, June 10, 1967.

Curtis Ramsdell, Columbia Heights Police Department, July 30, 1977

Richard E. Legler, Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, Aug. 9, 1986

Timothy Bowe, Minnesota State Patrol, June 6, 1997

Shawn Silvera, Lino Lakes Police Department, Sept. 6, 2005

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]

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