MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A small northern Minnesota community is still very much in mourning more than one year after Aitkin County Deputy Steve Sandberg lost his life in the line of duty.
The 60-year-old investigator, who had been with the department since 1991, was killed in October 2015. A suspect he was guarding in a St. Cloud hospital got hold of his service weapon and shot him with it.
After his death, many sports teams in the town of about 2,000 people retired jerseys in Sandberg’s honor.
The Aitkin High School dance team does not have jerseys, so they decided to dance for Sandberg and all those in the law enforcement community.
Varsity Jazz All Starz Head Coach Lisa Roth remembers leading her team from practice to join the rest of the Aitkin community as they lined up outside of a local church to honor Sandberg the day after his death.
“That was the first day of practice last year,” Roth said.
Senior Captain Megan Host recalled it was “overwhelming.”
“You could feel the crowd was so upset,” Host said.
The team decided this year to dedicate its varsity jazz routine to the fallen hero to the tune of Disturbed’s cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.”
Several aspects of the choreography and costumes pay tribute to Sandberg and the law enforcement community.
The dancers form the number 203, which was Deputy Sandberg’s badge number.
“It isn’t just a dance for us, it means something,” team member Courtney Connor said.
Activities Director Jason Cline cannot help but notice the bigger crowds at home games this year, full of people eager to watch the half time dance performance.
“We get a standing ovation by some visiting towns,” Cline said.
One fan is always watching; Deputy Sandberg’s widow, Kristi Sandberg.
“She has come to every performance we’ve had,” Roth said.
Junior team member Kayla Ryan, whose father is a police officer in Aitkin, said she dances with extra passion for Mrs. Sandberg.
“It is really special thinking about her out in the crowd crying every time she sees it,” Ryan said. “It makes me dance so much better because I want to try so hard for her and I want to honor Steve.”
Kristi Sandberg says she is honored by the dance, which has helped her and her daughter take another step forward in the healing process.
She said in a statement, “We are reminded by these amazing young women that Steve will never be forgotten.”