AITKIN, Minn. (WCCO) — Hundreds gathered Monday night in Aitkin to grieve for fallen Sheriff’s Investigator Steven Sandberg.

People lined the street as a motorcade escorted Investigator Sandberg’s body from St. Cloud back to his hometown of Aitkin. The lights on emergency vehicles flashed to honor the officer who died in the line of duty.

There were few dry eyes as the Aitkin community came together in sadness and disbelief over the loss of Investigator Sandberg.

“It’s so senseless I just don’t know what to say,” Rob Williams said.

Williams coaches Sandberg’s daughter. We’re told watching Cassie play basketball was one of his greatest joys.

“I got to know him not as a police officer, but as a father and a husband,” Williams said.

Most in the small town know the ’73 Aitkin High School graduate, and the sheriff’s investigator who was a longtime volunteer firefighter.

“I can’t imagine losing such a wonderful man. He was the sweetest nicest man you ever knew,” friend Sylvia Hoge said.

“You are willing to give your whole life for what you are doing, and indeed Steve showed us what that meant,” a pastor at United Methodist Church, where Sandberg attended, said.

Hundreds lined the streets as Sandberg’s body was brought home.

“Words can’t describe the feeling of loss that everybody has right now,” Sheriff Scott Turner said.

Firefighters saluted the procession of vehicles, which included Sandberg’s wife Kristi and daughter.

“Just to see the squad cars go by as we watched them go by and see the people on the street corners and on the sidewalks on the route, they were overcome,” Sheriff Turner said.

“We grew up in a small community and we love this community because we’re so close and when you lose someone it’s not just a police officer, it’s not just a neighbor it’s a member of your family,” Williams said.

Sheriff Turner said Sandberg’s wife and daughter are overwhelmed by the community and law enforcement support from near and far. Investigator Steven Sandberg will be laid to rest on Friday. According to Turner, he is the first deputy to lose his life in the line of duty in Aitkin County.

Jennifer Mayerle