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Christopher Dewey remembered as hero

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. -- Family and friends remembered Christopher L. Dewey as a hero.

The 27-year-old Mahnomen County deputy sheriff, who was shot 18 months ago, was eulogized today 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.

Patting his own chest, Dewey's sheriff's office partner, Chad Peterson, said: "He will always be a hero here."

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 for the 68-minute funeral service.

A sobbing Bergman told 2,100 people in Living Word that "Chris showed me that every day is an opportunity to serve others. ,,, Chris always put others before himself, no matter what the sacrifice."

His final sacrifice came when Dewey died Aug. 9. He was shot while on duty Feb. 18, 2009.

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 department in which he served with a folded American flag nearby.

"I can hope that Chris' short legacy lives on in all that we do," said Bergman, a Madison, Wis., women 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 Dewey family's pastor from when he was taking rehabilitation in Colorado told the congregation that the good guy sometimes dies.

"The wrong guy died," he said many people think about the Dewey shooting.

"You can't make sense out of this, it doesn't make sense," he added, saying that Jesus preached that even good people have trouble.

"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.

He urged the deputy's family and friends to move beyond their personal grief. "We can't get stuck on that."

Burgen said Dewey's widow, Emily, does not think she is strong, but relies on God for her strength. She wants others to know they also can rely on God, Burgen added.

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.

Dewey was hospitalized in early July for an infection and in mid-July was placed on hospice care after a lung collapsed.

He underwent several surgeries and spent months at a Colorado rehabilitation center. While there, the family received support from Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette, Colo.

Burgen of Flatirons delivered the funeral message and Chaplain M.C. Williams of the Fairplay, Colo., Police Department assisted at the cemetery.

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" as officers from throughout Minnesota and nearby states packed the church.

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 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 hundreds at the service were all 20 members of the Mahnomen County Sheriff's Department. Other law enforcement agencies filled in on Wednesday.

Mahnomen county commissioners also were in the church.

Visitation preceded the 11 a.m. funeral at the church, with a slide show about Dewey's life. The service and other ceremonies, including a police burial, were organized by the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association.

His ashes were interred at Crystal Lake Cemetery in Minneapolis.

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 outdoorsmen is survived by his wife; mother, Poppe; father, Mark; and brothers and sisters, Daniel, Philip, Henry, Douglas, Sara and Hana.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, among dignitaries who attended the funeral, ordered al flags to be lowered to half staff at the state Capitol complex 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.

Ironically, 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.


The service will be available on the Web at

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.