Deputy Dewey funeral: Law enforcement community says goodbye to partner, friend
Brooklyn Park, Minn. - Chad Peterson tapped his chest, near his heart, and talked about fallen fellow Mahnomen County Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Dewey: "He will always be a hero here."
Peterson choked back tears Wednesday while remembering his partner, but Minnesotans who did not know Dewey also honored the 27-year-old who was shot on duty 18 months ago and died Aug. 9.
After a 68-minute funeral service, American flags lined the motorcade route from the church to the cemetery, and Twin Cities residents posted signs thanking Dewey for his service.
Dewey was eulogized Wednesday as a person who was there when people needed him.
"After the shooting, people called Chris a hero, but I think he always has been," his sister-in-law, Hannah Bergman, said in the deputy's eulogy.
The Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park was packed with law enforcement officers from around Minnesota and nearby states, 100 family members and the public.
A photograph of Dewey in his deputy's uniform sat in front of the family at the church, and the urn with his ashes was flanked by firefighter helmets for departments in which he served, with a folded American flag nearby.
A sobbing Bergman told 2,100 people, mostly law enforcement officers, that "Chris showed me that every day is an opportunity to serve others. ... Chris always put others before himself, no matter what the sacrifice."
"I can hope that Chris' short legacy lives on in all that we do," said Bergman, a Madison, Wis., woman who is considering becoming a police officer and at one time worked with Dewey in a restaurant.
Tears flowed freely during the service. Deputy Peterson tried to hold them back, saying Dewey would not want tears.
"His whole life was a celebration," Peterson said. "He would want us to be joyous, and he would like us to be merry, and he would like us to move on."
The Rev. Jim Burgen, the Dewey family's pastor while Dewey was recovering in Colorado, told the congregation that the good guy sometimes dies.
"The wrong guy died," he said. "You can't make sense out of this, it doesn't make sense."
Jesus preached that even good people have trouble, Burgen said.
"Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his brethren," Living Word's pastor, Mac Hammon, said, quoting from the Bible.
The police flavor of the service was evident throughout.
Sgt. Tim Eggebraaten of the Detroit Lakes Police Department sang "I Can Only Imagine" and "Amazing Grace."
The wife of a Brooklyn Park police officer sang the service's first song.
The service was held at Living Word because a Dewey family member attends there, the church has ample parking, it is large (2,700 fit in the sanctuary) and it is involved with police-support activities.
After the service, hundreds of law enforcement vehicles were part of a motorcade to the cemetery. Also in that motorcade were motorcycles ridden by members of the Patriot Guard, a group that supports military and law enforcement personnel who die in the line of duty.
Among those at the service were all 20 members of the Mahnomen County Sheriff's Department. Other law enforcement agencies filled in for them on Wednesday.
Mahnomen County commissioners also were in the church.
Dewey's ashes were interred at Crystal Lake Cemetery in Minneapolis.
En route to the cemetery, the motorcade passed businesses and schools with signs honoring Dewey. One read: "Thank you for your service deputy Dewey" and another "Our sympathy for deputy Dewey."
On Feb. 18, 2009, Dewey was shot once in the head and twice in the stomach while investigating a report of a drunken driver in Mahnomen. After the shooting, he suffered a brain hemorrhage and other medical problems.
He underwent several surgeries and spent months at a Colorado rehabilitation center.
Later back in Minnesota, Dewey was hospitalized in early July for an infection and in mid-July was placed in hospice care after a lung collapsed.
Dewey was born Feb. 9, 1983, in Cambridge, Minn., just north of the Twin Cities, and graduated from high school there in 2001. He graduated from Hibbing, Minn., Community College in 2003 and joined the Mahnomen County Sheriff's Department the next year. He also was a volunteer firefighter in Twin Lakes and Waubun.
His high school sweetheart, Emily Boulden, became his bride in 2007.
The avid hunter and outdoorsman is survived by his wife, parents and five siblings.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty, among dignitaries who attended the funeral, ordered state flags lowered to half-staff Wednesday in honor of Dewey. Also at the funeral were Attorney General Lori Swanson, Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion and Corrections Commissioner Joan Fabian.
Former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, a governor candidate, also attended.
The man facing murder charges in the shooting comes from Anoka, not far from Living Word Christian Center. He is Thomas Lee Fairbanks.
A co-defendant in the shooting, Daniel Kurt Vernier, pleaded guilty to charges and was sentenced last September to two years in prison.