Photo by Chris Rogers
Winona Police officers raised the American flag at a service honoring Winona County Sheriff's Investigator John Schneider, State Patrol Corporal Ted Foss, and Winona Police Officer Mathew Hamilton, who all died in the line of duty. Bereaved family and friends, fellow officers, and citizens remembered the sacrifice of these men.
The crack of rifle fire resounded outside the Winona County Law Enforcement Center Wednesday. Somber black bands obscured the normal gleam of officers' badges as one man stepped up to speak.
Lake City Police Officer Bill Weist's partner, Shawn Schneider, was slain while responding to a domestic assault in 2011. The event evokes a haunting similarity to the story of Winona County Sheriff's Department Investigator John Schneider (no relation to the Lake City officer), who was shot and killed responding to a domestic assault in Goodview.
Weist spoke at the somber gathering outside the Winona County Law Enforcement Center to honor Investigator Schneider, Minnesota State Patrol Corporal Ted Foss, and Winona Police Officer Mathew Hamilton, who all lost their lives while serving the Winona area community.
"The word hero was used a lot in those days," Weist said of the weeks following Shawn Schneider's death. In those days the porches of Lake City were hung with Christmas lights honoring the fallen officer's badge number: 208.
"We don't feel like heroes," Weist continued. "We just feel like people going to work. But our work means something to us, and now it means something to everyone else."
Winona County Attorney Karin Sonneman addressed the crowd of officers, bereaved family members and friends, and citizens. She praised the daily effort of local officers and the risks they all take to serve. "The way they lived is what makes them heroes," she said of Investigator Schneider, Corporal Foss, Officer Hamilton, and other fallen officers. "These heroes live forever in our hearts and in the hearts and minds of those they left behind."
Just beyond the crowd, sirens started up, cutting the speakers short for a second. Two officers sprang into a squad car and the wail of fire trucks coming from the station could be heard. The nature of the emergency was unknown to those gathered, but the reminder was clear: for the men and women who wear the badge, duty and risk is never more than a call away.