SARTELL, Minn. (WCCO) – A community is mourning the loss of a police officer who spent more than two decades serving in Central Minnesota.
Sartell Police Officer Joe Schmitz had gone in for surgery on March 20 for a bulging disc in his neck. But after he returned home an artery ruptured pressing against his airway. Schmitz was taken to St. Cloud Hospital on Friday, March 21, and he passed away on Thursday.
“Joe was an outstanding officer for the Sartell Police Department. He was tall in stature with a big heart and a smile just as big. Even though Joe was only with Sartell for two years, he stepped right in as a seasoned, experienced officer,” said Sartell Police Chief Jim Hughes. “He will be missed by the people he was sworn to protect and by the members of the department.”
The 6-foot, 4-inch officer was known for having a big heart.
“He was our biggest officer but also our gentlest officer, and had a smile as big as he [was],” officer Dan Witson said.
He had been with the Paynesville police department for 19 years before working for Sartell the past 2 years. The officer was known in the community for being a genuine guy.
“He was the type whether it was adults or kids he just connected with them and has a calmness about him,” officer Witson said. “”He was the type of officer who just made you strive to be a better person, a better officer.”
The 44-year-old leaves behind his wife, Stacie Schmitz, and their 4-year-old son, Andrew, who officers say looked up to his dad his hero.
“We were all shocked but we’ve stuck together and tried to support the family,” officer Witson said.
On Joe Schmitz’s CaringBridge page, Stacie Schmitz wrote about her husband’s death, envisioning him in heaven. It read, in part:
“He has the biggest smile on his face. The smile I seen first at the finish of our first date when I asked him if he would want to meet me again; the smile when he asked me to marry him; the smile when our son was handed to us at his birth.”
A fund has been set up for Schmitz at the Central Minnesota Credit Union branches at “Joe Schmitz 7907.”