Bouquets of flowers and balloons create a growing memorial outside the Aitkin County (MN) Sheriff's Office entrance. On a sign, a black band hangs across the department's badge, signifying a community in mourning. All over town, businesses have also hung black ribbons to honor the service of fallen Deputy Steve Sandberg, who was killed with his own duty pistol by an inmate at St. Cloud Hospital early Sunday, reports KARE.
"I've worn them a few times over the last 30 years, it's the first time I've worn one for one of our own," said Scott Turner, Aitkin County Sheriff.
Sandberg's church, Aitkin United Methodist Church near downtown, readies for an evening vigil, giving the community a space to mourn. A processional bringing his body to the funeral home will make several stops around Aitkin to Deputy Sandberg's favorite places, including the Aitkin County Sheriff's Office, Aitken Fire Department, and high school.
"He loved the community, the community loved him; it was a very mutual thing. It is very painful, it's a physical reaction that happens, your heart is actually hurt. It's a bad thing, but we will get through it but we will lean on each other and lean on God and be there," said Dani Owen, with Aitkin United Methodist Church, where Sandberg's family was actively involved.
Sandberg joined the Aitkin County Sheriff's Office in 1991, moving from patrol to the investigative unit. He also spent 17 years as a volunteer firefighter before retiring from that role in 2011.