SOUTH SAINT PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — On what was an already tough week for law enforcement, the news that two South St. Paul police officers were shot rocked those in the city’s tight knit community — especially for those in law enforcement.

“It is challenging,” said Todd Podgorski, a city council member and peace officer. “This week has been particularly tough with the death of, you know, Correctional Officer Gomm in Stillwater, and I happened to go to Stillwater that morning to pick up an inmate and bring him to court, so that was very close to home for me.”

Braving the rain and wearing blue, residents young and old formed a line around the police department Friday night.

Officers Derek Kruse, Todd Waters (credit: South St. Paul Police Department/Facebook)

“The school boundaries, the city boundaries are all the same, and the officers here in this building protect our students, protect our staff and our citizens,” said School Board Member Wendy Felton.

Residents were able to personally deliver thank you cards and handwritten notes to members of the 29 officer department, just one day after what could have been a deadly encounter. Their thoughts extend beyond the officers involved.

“I held in my heart prayers that they were safe and that they would be going home to their families, and that the individual who committed these acts would get the help that he or she needed at that time,” Felton said.

Dustin Bilderback (credit: Dakota County Sheriff’s Office)

Dustin Allen Bilderback, 33, has been charged with four counts of attempted murder. Officials with Everyday Living, the apartment complex where he was staying, say he became aggressive and dangerous on Thursday afternoon when he learned they were terminating his lease and independent living services after he broke the facility’s rules.

While officers were speaking with his mental health caseworker, Bilderback went to his car, pulled out a shotgun and fired off six shots towards officers Todd Waters and Derek Kruse.

Both Waters and Kruse are now out of the hospital and are recovering from their injuries.

Bilderback was still in the Dakota County Jail as of late Friday night.

Mary McGuire