ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - A "silent” standing vigil was held for 24 hours at the State Capitol’s Peace Officers’ Memorial in St. Paul this weekend. The vigil comes after Governor Dayton proclaimed Sunday, May 15, 2016 as Law Enforcement Memorial Day in Minnesota.
Honor guards from the Minnesota Law Enforcement Association (LEMA) and officers from across the State took post at 7 p.m. Saturday and stood guard, in 20-minute shifts, until Sunday 7 p.m. to honor the 277 Minnesota officers who lost their lives in the line of duty since 1874.
During several Sunday shifts, a wreath was laid to honor the fallen.
“Approximately 30 wreaths were laid today,” said Commander Todd Schwanke of the Rochester Police Department.
The tribute to peace officers who lost their lives or were injured in the line of duty is how people like Mike Cousins regain closure.
“After all these year’s somebody’s got to keep the memory of these police officers alive," he said.
Cousins’ father, Reserve Officer Eugene Cousins, lost his life in the line of duty in 1979 -- “In my dad’s case, way too early,” Mike said.
Eugene Cousins served as the Chief of the Special Police Force in Mankato.
“He was in a squad car, they were chasing a suspect up a hill, he went into the hill after the suspect and never came out,” detailed Cousins.
According to LEMA members, Cousins died May 6, 1979 at the University of Minnesota Hospitals after suffering an apparent stroke while on duty. He was only 48 years old.
“He put his life on the line for all the citizens in North Mankato," his son said.
Jeff Beahan, President of LEMA, makes it his life’s work to remember every officer who’s paid the ultimate price.
“The first one was Officer Matthew Hamilton who was killed in Winona in 1874, the last official recorded one was Deputy Sandberg last year in Aikin County,” Behan told FOX 9.
The vigil will end Sunday with a law enforcement honor guard parade that includes a special tribute to Aitkin County Deputy Steve Sandberg, killed in the line of duty on Oct. 18, 2015, and two officers recently added to the LEMA honor roll: Minneapolis Officer Charles Channels, who died May 27, 1907, and DNR Officer Charles Masoner, who died March 21, 1941.
The ceremony will conclude with a firing party, the playing of “Taps,” and a performance by the Minnesota Police Band.
To further honor the fallen officers, all state and federal buildings in Minnesota will fly at half-mast on Law Enforcement Memorial Day.