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Lake City officer Schneider laid to rest Saturday

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LAKE CITY - Lake City paid tribute to slain police officer Shawn Schneider Saturday as his family and 2,000 public safety officers from across Minnesota and around the country laid him to rest.

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His funeral at First Lutheran Church was rich with stories, song and scripture. The Revs. Darrin Paulson and Kevin Woestehoff talked about the tragic circumstances of Schneider's death and his faith in Jesus.

"This is what Shawn would have wanted: the honor, the ceremony, the support for his family," Woestehoff said after a white pall replaced an American flag on the casket.

His widow insisted that the funeral be at their church instead of a larger venue. Two large tents provided sound and a video feed to the overflow crowd.

"Brittany, in her great planning, said we need to be at the church," Paulson said.

The 32-year-old was a devoted son, brother, husband and father, said Minnesota State Patrol Trooper Malachy McCarthy, who gave the eulogy.

"Shawn connected with citizens by going the extra mile and following up on concerns," the trooper said. "He'd be at your side before you even asked."

Schneider attended his three children's Christmas pageant the day before Alan J. Sylte Jr., 25, of Hager City, Wis., shot the officer in the head.

Schneider and another officer responded early the morning of Dec. 19 to 618 W. Lyon Ave. in Lake City to a reported domestic incident involving a handgun. Sylte, an Iraq war veteran, had broken up with his 17-year-old girlfriend, it was learned later. Schneider was helping the girl safely escape when he was shot.

After a daylong standoff that included a lockdown of local schools, officers found Sylte dead. He had shot himself in the head.

Schneider, a nine-year veteran of the police department, died of his injuries Dec. 30 at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester.

"A split moment of agony and pain, a trigger is pulled," Paulson said in his sermon. "It makes us sick just thinking of it."

And yet it happens all too often. He noted that 174 American officers died in the line of duty in 2011.

"It is senseless and random and tragic," he said, adding "this tells us this is a broken world that needs a savior."

And like Schneider, Jesus died in the line of duty, Paulson said. Schneider gave his life to save a young woman's. Jesus died, the pastor said, for Shawn and for others.

"For Jesus and Shawn, death is not the end," Paulson said.

"A despair of a young man with a gun doesn't have a victory," the pastor concluded. "God has the victory and in God Shawn does, too. Amen."

Schneider was buried in Lakewood Cemetery following the police tradition of a radio dispatcher calling his badge number, 208, three times, then declaring he was "10-7," police code for out of service.

Then two members of the St. Paul Police Federation rang a bell 14 times, signifying that the officer served almost 14 years, and two helicopters flew overhead in a missing man formation.

The first police marched into the cemetery at 3:15 p.m., 10 abreast, and the ceremony ended at 4 p.m.

Earlier, an eagle circled high above Lake City as the funeral began at 1 p.m.

An estimated 2,400 people attended the funeral, including 2,000 public safety personnel. While some Twin Cities' officers' funerals have been bigger, Doug Neville of the Minnesota Public Safety Department said Schneider's was large for one outside the Cities.

About 600 crowded into the church, with the rest in tents nearby.

Before the service, the family met for a few minutes with Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz and state Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem. House Speaker Kurt Zellers attended the funeral, riding to Lake City with Dayton.

Thousands lined the procession route, some setting up chairs hours earlier.

Carol Schmidt of Lake City was among the thousands of citizens who lined U.S. 61 and city streets to pay their respects. Holding 1-year-old grandson Mason Eggenberger on her shoulders, she spoke with pride about how this Mississippi River community of 5,100 has supported the Schneiders and Lake City Police Department.

"I think they've rallied behind the family really well and there are plans to hold more benefits," she said. "It's been a very somber week in town."

Schmidt's daughter and son-in-law were among the law enforcement personnel in the procession following Schneider's casket. Stephanie Eggenberger is a Wabasha County dispatcher and Mike Eggenberger is a Wabasha County jailer.

The last few hundred yards before reaching the cemetery, those in the procession passed dozens of American flags held by the Patriot Guard, a group that attends most military and law enforcement funerals.

After the funeral, the American flag was returned to the casket, and the red, white and blue clearly showed through the carriage's glass windows.

Law enforcement officers from all over Minnesota and Wisconsin attended the funeral and joined in the procession, but they came from distance locations, too. Two Chicago police cars joined the nearly four-mile procession from the church to the cemetery, along with one from Las Vegas, Nev., and closer places such as Jamestown, N.D.

As the first part of the hourlong procession passed St. Mary's of the Lake Catholic Church, its bell began to toll 261 times, once for every Minnesota law enforcement officer who has died in the line of duty.

Two University of Minnesota police officers rode motorcycles in front of the horse-drawn wagon carrying Schneider's body. As they entered the cemetery, they parked the motorcycles, saluted and stood at attention as the coffin and family members slowly went by.

Law enforcement vehicles from Goodhue and Wabasha counties filled the cemetery for the graveside services. Lake City straddles the county line.

Following a rifle salute, a police bagpipe group played "Amazing Grace." A bugler also played taps.

In Lake City, and for miles away, signs in front of businesses paid tribute to Schneider, such as one in Miesville that read: "God bless 208 and his family."

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co. Anne Jacobson is editor of the Red Wing Republican Eagle, a Forum Communications news operation.

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