One year after the tragic murder of Elk River Officer Todd Besser and his son, Blake, were murdered by son/brother Christopher in a St. Michael home, the communities they impacted throughout their lives here in the northwestern suburbs are gathering to remember them.
Spearheaded by Besser’s widow, Gwen, the Inaugural Sunshine 5k is set for this Saturday, May 14 at the Elk River Police Department. The run will kick off from The Besser Tree, a young but beautiful tree planted by the ERPD in memory of their brother, who served for years as a police liaison to the Elk River School District (ISD 728). Registration is already open, and costs just $30. There will be levels for all runners/kids/walkers and waddlers, with the official start at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The kids run precedes the 5K, starting at 8:30 a.m. at the ERPD.
“Todd loved people and especially enjoyed the students,” Gwen, who is organizing the run to help start a scholarship for students, said. “He loved the time he served as an officer in the district. He was always serving others through his role in the community and his role in the service.” Todd served in the Air Force prior to becoming a police officer.
The run will raise funds for both Backing the Blue Line and the Officer Besser Memorial Scholarship.
Backing the Blue Line is a locally founded non-profit organization composed of law enforcement wives dedicated to supporting the law enforcement community in Minnesota. Backing the Blue Line provides resources and emotional support to law enforcement officers and their families and serves as a positive voice in the community. Together, we are backing those who represent the thin blue line.
A scholarship is set up for Elk River High School for a graduating senior pursuing a career in law enforcement. A scholarship is set up for New Life Church in Princeton for a high school graduating senior pursuing a career in ministry. Our goal is to increase the number of scholarships available every year.
As for the name of the run – Gwen’s nickname for her husband was “Sunshine,” something she called him every morning, she said.
The run, she said, is just a start of the ways to remember her husband.
Monday, May 9 is the one year anniversary of the 2015 shooting, which took place in the Highwoods area of St. Michael. Todd Besser had just returned home from his shift on Saturday, May 9, the day before Mother’s Day. He was visiting his sons at the home they owned with their father in St. Michael.
According to Wright County Sheriff’s investigators and charges filed in Wright County District Court, Chris, the officer’s middle son, and his father were in a confrontation shortly after Todd returned home.
The incident seemed to end, but Chris retrieved a hunting rifle that was stored in the home, went downstairs, and shot his father, killing him instantly.
He went upstairs, waited for his brother to enter the home, and shot Blake in the stomach. Blake was able to call 911, but passed away prior to help arriving.
Chris drove to a Monticello gas station, where he later turned himself in by calling Wright County Dispatch. In the months that followed the murders, he entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to 61 years in prison for the pair of shootings. He could be released sooner on good behavior, according to terms in the plea agreement, approved by family members.