MPD honors officers living, dead and furry

Police chief Janee Harteau, Sgt. Andy Stender and ‘Nash’ (MPR photo/Brandt Williams)

The Minneapolis Police Department has observed National Police Week with ceremonies honoring officers who’ve risked their lives and lost them in the line of duty.

Earlier this week,  some of the 23 officers who responded to the Accent Signage mass shooting, which left six people dead last year, received Medals of Valor.  At the awards ceremony held at the Special Operations Center in north Minneapolis,  Lt. David Hayhoe announced the names of the award winners and recounted the dangerous situation the officers faced on the afternoon of Sept. 27, 2012.   “Their experience inside the building was any officer’s worst nightmare – with the dead, dying and wounded all around them and the suspect nearby,” he said.

Hayhoe said the first officers on the scene risked their lives to help get the wounded out of the building.  He said a few minutes later, a SWAT team, lead in part by Sgt. Andy Stender and his K9, “Nash,” conducted a room to room search to find the person responsible for the carnage.  “The hiding places were numerous and the job made worse by an environment that the suspect was familiar with while the officers had to learn the layout as they progressed,” said Hayhoe.

Nash appeared a bit excited as he sat on stage at the MPD Special Operations Center in front of a crowd of applauding officers and civilians.  It took an extra second for Chief Janee Harteau to place the medal held by a red ribbon around the German Shepard’s neck because he tried to chew on it.

Police officials say awards of this level for police dogs are rare.  In 2000, K9 Sam was wounded in action and received the department’s highest award, the Medal of Honor.  K9 Chase was killed in action in 2009 and also received the Medal of Honor.

In a separate ceremony at City Hall, the department honored law enforcement officers in Hennepin County who died in the line of duty.  The names of each officer, from the first to die in 1884 to the latest, St. Louis Park Police officer Mike Politz in 2011, were read aloud.  Harteau gave a solemn speech in front of the group of officers gathered next to the Father of Waters statue in City Hall’s ornate rotunda. She recounted the moments after learning two Minneapolis officers had been wounded last week.  “While I rode to the hospital, I bargained and prayed, ‘God let them please survive,” Harteau said.

The circumstances under which the officers were wounded are still under investigation.