Remembering Fallen Heroes
For the first time since his death in 1999, Minnesota and the rest of the nation are honoring a fallen Hayfield police chief.
On Monday night, the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association remembered Douglas Claassen at a ceremony at the Peace Officer’s Memorial in front of the State Capitol in St. Paul. Dodge County Sheriff Scott Rose placed a wreath in honor of Claassen during the ceremony.
Claassen was injured in the line-of-duty in 1977 while serving as police chief of Hayfield and died from the injuries in 1999. This is the first time he has been publicly recognized as a line of duty death in Minnesota.
He is the fourth officer to die in the line of duty from Dodge County.
Earlier on Monday, Claassen was also recognized at the National Peace Officers’ Memorial in Washington, D.C. His widow, Kathy Claassen, of Kasson, along with other family members, traveled to Washington for the remembrance, at which President Donald Trump spoke.
During the state ceremony, Sheriff Rose marched with LEMA members in front of the memorial as another member played Taps and a bell tolled.
“It was a great honor to be there and remember,” Rose said.
It was special to the sheriff because he grew up knowing Claassen as a kid and recalls all the pain he suffered for so many years.
Rose also placed a wreath at the memorial for Capt. Loring Guenther, who died in the line of duty in 2013 while serving with the sheriff’s office.
“Loring was one of my best friends,” Rose said. “I thought he was going to be the next sheriff and not me.”
Rose said it was because of Guenther’s recognition at the memorial that he became active with the special Memorial Day for police in 2014.
In all, 28 officers have died in the line of duty from southeastern Minnesota.
“It’s important to never forget,” Rose said of the sacrifices of the fallen officers.