WAYZATA, Minn. (WCCO) – Nearly 2,000 law enforcement officers from across Minnesota and the country stood alongside family, friends and neighbors Thursday during the funeral of a Wayzata police officer killed in the line of duty.
The 1,900 men and women in uniform gathered at Wayzata Free Church to honor officer William “Bill” Mathews, who died last Friday after he was hit by an SUV while removing debris from Highway 12.
The 47-year-old officer was a 9-year veteran of the Wayzata Police Department. He leaves behind a wife and a 7-year-old son.
‘Bill Lived His Life To Serve As An Officer’
The driver of the SUV, 54-year-old Beth Freeman, is charged with criminal vehicular homicide. She’s accused of reading texts behind the wheel and driving under the influence of drugs. She was also driving with a canceled license.
“On Sept. 8, 2017, a piece of myself and everyone who loved Bill died with him that day,” said officer Dan Lee, Mathews’ partner, at the funeral.
Lee addressed a total audience of 2,400, which included officers from New York and Nebraska, as well as public officials, such as Gov. Mark Dayton.
Lee told those gathered of Mathews’ character, particularly in how careful he was in dealing with the victims of crime.
Mathews’ integrity was a theme many of the funeral speakers touched on.
“With Bill, what you saw was what you got,” said his brother-in-law, Craig Budolfson. “Bill Matthews was the most genuine person I’ve ever met in my entire life. Bill was always concerned with doing what was right.”
Mathews’ son, Wyatt, sat in the front row with his mother by his side. She was silent, but family spoke on her behalf. In a statement read by her sister, she said:
“I never believed in love at first sight until I met you, you were so compassionate, patient and kind. I knew from our first date that I needed you in my life forever. I never would have guessed forever would end so soon.”
No one did.
“We must not make sense of evil, because…evil does not make sense,” said Kevin Meyer, the pastor of Wayzata Free Church, to the audience of law enforcement officials.
At the center of the service was Mathews’ casket, which was draped with an American flag.
Blue roses were handed out to all of the law enforcement officers present. They were donated by a nonprofit called Backing the Blue Line.
Each of the roses bore a message: “Blessed Are the Peacemakers. Never Forgotten.” They were also marked by a thin blue line and Mathews’ badge number.
Following a funeral, two processions accompanied Mathews’ casket through Wayzata to Summit Park Cemetery. The first procession was made up of law enforcement officers from across the state; the second was made up of officers from Wayzata and Long Lake, as well as Mathews’ family and friends.
A memorial fund has been set up for officer William Mathews’ family. You can donate to the Officer Bill Mathews Memorial Fund at Wells Fargo in Wayzata.
Officer Bill Mathews Memorial Fund
Wells Fargo – Wayzata
900 Wayzata Blvd. E.
Wayzata, MN 55391