Honoring fallen officers
In the 11 years Woodbury police officer Tony Ofstead has been on the job, he's seen a handful of officers die on the job.
He was in on the arrest of St. Paul officer Jerry Vick's shooter in May 2005. He was listening to the statewide radio when Lino Lakes' Sean Silvera was struck by a vehicle while deploying stop sticks and his partner was frantically screaming for help in September of 2005. He responded to the scene where Maplewood's Joe Bergeron died after being shot in the head, and other officers needed paramedic care in May of 2010.
Each of those incidents was heart wrenching and "something no one should ever have to see," Ofstead said.
"Unfortunately my law enforcement career has been touched by several law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty," he added.
To honor his friends who sacrificed their lives in the name of public service, Ofstead will be going on a 250-mile bike ride from Chesapeake, Va., to Washington, D.C., this May to raise awareness for two national organizations.
As a member of Law Enforcement United, Ofstead and the Minnesota team of about 20 riders, will raise awareness and money for Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS) and the Officers Down Memorial Page.
COPS is an organization that takes care of the families of those who die in the line of duty, while the memorial page makes sure all officers are honored for years to come.
"No officer who has given the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty is ever forgotten," Ofstead said.
Two officers from Minnesota died last year after being killed on the job -- Mahnomen County sheriff's deputy Chris Dewey and Bergeron, but the riders are honoring a total of 162 law enforcement officers who died nationwide.
It doesn't matter where or under what circumstances, Ofstead said, "We truly ride for those who die ... we're riding for the memory of them."
He's also raising money for COPS, which provides resources to help rebuild the lives of surviving families -- whether it's sending kids to camp or spouses to counseling.
When the officers get to Washington, D.C., there will be a vigil held to honor all officers who died on the job. As their names are read, Ofstead and the others will hand over engraved bracelets to the survivors.
He added that one more item of encouragement will be given to each family.
"Whether it's a patch from here, a letter that we've written, a big hug ... ," he said.
Team Minnesota's goal is to raise $20,000 for the event. Ofstead is also selling $10 Law Enforcement United coins as part of the fundraiser up until he leaves for the ride on May 10.
Additionally, the public may donate via a contribution form that can be obtained from Ofstead or make donations at www.leunited.org.