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St. Paul honors Jerry Vick
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A group of children waited for an opportunity to leave flowers for the Vick family. (MPR Photo/Phil Picardi)
The funeral for St. Paul Police Sgt. Jerry Vick is being held Wednesday. Vick was killed in the line of duty last Friday while working undercover outside a bar on the city's East Side. On Tuesday afternoon and evening, a long line of mourners and well wishers snaked several city blocks outside a Rice Street funeral home to pay their respects and show support for Vick's family.

St. Paul, Minn. — Sadness and anger were two prominent emotions among Vick's friends and fellow police officers. They were joined by hundreds of community members at a four hour visitation for the slain 15-year veteran. Some who were in line said they're mourning the loss of a friend, and many called for justice for what they said was a "senseless" shooting.

"It's a sad, sad tragedy," said Stacy Erickson, who works at a St. Paul restaurant where she said Jerry Vick was a regular customer. "Vick was a wonderful guy. He did a lot for the city, for the people, he was just a great guy, very humorous, very loving. You can tell he's got wonderful kids. It's just unexplainable, unbelievable, I don't know what words to use."

Vick's supervisor in the department's vice and narcotics unit says Vick was able to connect with all kinds of people. St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington says Vick had "what it takes" to be a good undercover officer.

Bob Gunter was Vick's neighbor for five years when he lived in North St. Paul.

"He didn't have a bad streak in him. In all the time I'd known him I never heard him get into an argument with anybody, so, he's just one really nice guy. Someone that you wouldn't be afraid to approach, whether he was in his uniform or not," he said.

Vick wasn't in his uniform Friday when he was killed, and it's not clear whether the man accused of shooting him knew if Vick was a police officer.

Harry Evans, 32, of St. Paul, is charged with Vick's killing. Evans lengthy criminal history includes felony convictions, and Bob Gunter said he shouldn't be allowed to commit any more crimes.

"Much as people think about it in this state, it's really unfortunate that this is one thing where I think the death penalty should be involved. I really believe that strongly," he said.

Prosecutors say Evans is facing a life sentence if he's convicted. Because the victim was a police officer, Evans would not be eligable for parole. Minnesota does not have a death penalty. St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly has called Vick's shooting a "failure of the criminal justice system," and he says he plans to work toward public safety reforms.

The president of St. Paul's City Council, Kathy Lantry, said it appears law enforcement officials are being very careful with the Jerry Vick shooting investigation, and she's hopeful justice prevails.

At the visitation, Lantry, who was wearing a black ribbon on her blouse, said she's impressed by the response of St. Paul residents who've come forward in support of the police department.

"It doesn't surprise me actually. We have a very good relationship with our police department, I mean most of the people in the city of St. Paul. And this is a good way for us to show our respect," she said.

John Gelao, a retired police sergeant, was on the force for 36 years. He said it's too bad the public doesn't show more respect to living police officers. But, he said, it's natural to want to show support in a time of tragedy. He remembers a similar outpouring of support after the death of officer Ron Ryan, Jr. just over a decade ago. And, he said the possibility of injury -- or even death -- is just part of the job.

Mourner Karen Blossum said she's known three co-workers who've been killed in her 16 years working for the St. Paul Police Department: Ryan, a secretary who was killed in a domestic dispute, and now Jerry Vick. Before entering the funeral home, Blossum said she wants Vick's family to know how much he'll be missed.

"Just try to show support for the family, try not to break down, just show them that we care and that we love him and that we wish he was back here with us. And we hope we can get them through it. That's the main thing. The family needs our support more than anybody," she said.

Jerry Vick's family, friends, and police officers from across the Midwest are expected to say goodbye to Vick at his funeral. The ceremony takes place at noon at Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church in St. Paul. He'll be buried at St. Mary's Cemetary.