Motorcycle Crash Kills Off-Duty Fridley Police Officer

Barry Pankonin was wearing a helmet; alcohol does not appear to have been a factor in the single-vehicle crash near his Plymouth home, police said.

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Fridley Police Officer Barry Pankonin died Tuesday near his Plymouth home in an off-duty motorcycle crash that did not involve other vehicles, pedestrians or riders. He was wearing a helmet. He was 38, a veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard with more than 12 years service to Fridley. Funeral arrangements are pending and an investigation by Plymouth police continues. It is the first death of an active-duty Fridley police officer, whether in the line of duty or off duty, in more than two decades.

This article contains updates from throughout the day on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, the day after Pankonin's death. Here is a summary of the updates you will find, in reverse chronological order, as they appear below from top to bottom:

  • 8:15 p.m.: Medical Examiner's report. Fridley force free to attend funeral.
  • 5:30 p.m.: Details other news outlets are reporting.
  • 3 p.m.: No alcohol involved. Pankonin died very near his home.
  • 2:15 p.m.: Plymouth Police Department news release. 
  • 1:30 p.m.: Planning for law-enforcement and military honors at funeral. 
  • 10:27 a.m.: "It's a sad day for Fridley" said Fridley Mayor Scott Lund. 
  • 9:57 a.m.: Pankonin's career with the Fridley Police Department. 
  • 8:57 a.m.: Fridley Police Department news release.

Did you know Officer Barry Pankonin? Leave a comment below or at the Fridley Patch Facebook page. Get updates with our newsletter

Update (8:15 p.m. Wednesday): Fridley Police Officer Barry Pankonin "died as a result of multiple blunt force injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident," according to a Hennepin County Medical Examiner report released Wednesday afternoon. 

The report listed Pankonin's Plymouth home address on 13th Avenue North—a location less than 50 feet from the crash site at 13th Avenue North and Kingsview Lane North.

The medical examiner said Pankonin died at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday at North Memorial Medical Center. Plymouth police said they received a report of the crash at approximately 3:09 p.m. Tuesday.

Fridley Mayor Scott Lund said Wednesday evening that he had heard a version of the incident at a Fridley Police Department debriefing Wednesday afternoon, along with a tenative schedule for the funeral this weekend.

Every member of the Fridley Police Department who wishes to attend the funeral will be able to, Lund said, because the Anoka County Sheriff's Office has agreed to provide police services in Fridley for a 24-hour period that includes the funeral.

Editor's note: On Wednesday night, Plymouth police refused to confirm information Lund reported from the Fridley debriefing. Thursday morning, Fridley police also declined comment on what they said was a confidential meeting. In view of that I've revised this update, deleting details until I can confirm them.

Update (5:30 p.m. Wednesday): Fridley is mourning the loss of Barry Pankonin, a 12-year member of the Fridley Police Department, who died Tuesday in a one-vehicle motorcycle crash near his Plymouth home.

Here is the latest from other news outlets: 

Update (3 p.m. Wednesday): The intersection where Plymouth police say Fridley Police Officer Barry Pankonin died in an off-duty motorcycle crash Tuesday afternoon is very near where he lived—if an online address database listing for a person with the same name is his.

Pankonin was killed in "a personal injury crash involving a motorcycle in the area of Kingsview Lane and 13th Avenue North in the City of Plymouth," according to Plymouth Police Department news release. WhitePages.com lists a residence less than 50 feet from that intersection. If that address was indeed his, Pankonin died within feet of home.

Plymouth Police Capt. Jeff Swiatkiewicz would not confirm Pankonin's home address to protect the family's privacy. 

The incident remains under investigation. Swiatkiewicz said police "don't believe alcohol was involved. There is no indication of it being involved."

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office may take as long as one week, depending on the pace of work of crew processing the crash scene, Swiatkiewicz told Plymouth MN Patch.

Fridley police said the crash happened "near his home in Plymouth" and did not involve another vehicle. (See full Fridley Police Department statement at the bottom of this post.)

Did you know Officer Barry Pankonin? Leave a comment below or at the Fridley Patch Facebook page.

Update (2:15 p.m. Wednesday): The Plymouth Police Department issued this news release:

On 8/21/12 at approximately 1509 hours, officers responded to the report of a personal injury crash involving a motorcycle in the area of Kingsview Lane and 13th Avenue North in the City of Plymouth. On arrival, officers located a male victim who had sustained serious injuries. The victim was transported by ambulance to North Memorial Hospital. At the time of the crash, the victim had been alone on the motorcycle and had been wearing a helmet. The victim was later pronounced dead at the hospital. The motorcycle crash is currently under investigation.

The driver of the motorcycle has been identified as 38 year old Barry Gustav Pankonin of Plymouth. Barry served as a police officer in the City of Fridley for over twelve years.

On behalf of the Plymouth Police Department, Chief Michael Goldstein would like to extend his condolences to Barry’s family, friends and members of the Fridley Police Department.

Update (1:30 p.m. Wednesday): Preparations are underway for a funeral for Fridley Police Officer Barry Pankonin that includes recognition of his service in local law enforcement and the U.S. military. 

Kevin Torgerson, commander of the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association (LEMA) honor guard, said his organiation would "try to get as many there as possible" from the 40 members of LEMA's guard.

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Pankonin died Tuesday afternoon near his Plymouth, MN home in an off-duty motorcycle crash that did not involve another vehicle, according to the Fridley Police Department (see full news release below). Specific funeral arrangements are still pending.

Protocol for funerals of law enforcement officers who die in the line of duty is more extensive than in the case of off-duty deaths, Torgerson said. "A lot of variables" determine the details of what an off-duty funeral may include, he said, and "a lot of things would be at the request of the family." 

Among the variables is military service and membership in veterans' organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the American Legion. (Pankonin was a veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard, according to Fridley police.)

Torgerson said he anticipated Pankonin's funeral would include:

  • a color team (carrying flags)
  • a flag-folding ceremony (in recognition of military service)
  • the playing of Taps
  • a firing party

The LEMA honor guard provides a firing party only in the case of a line-of-duty funeral. However, Torgerson said he understood that other law enforcement  agencies may form a firing party for Pankonin's funeral.

Other agencies typically assist with providing police service to a city so members of that city's police department can attend a funeral of their fellow officer, Torgerson said, although that is not within the scope of his organization of "professional volunteers."

Did you know Officer Pankonin? Leave a comment below or at the Fridley Patch Facebook page.

Fridley Director of Public Safety Don Abbott is a founding member of LEMA and the current honor guard includes a Fridley officer, Torgerson said. "We have an allegiance to them to help them out," he said of the Fridley Police Department.

There have been "five or six" funerals of off-duty law enforcement officers so far this year, Torgerson said. Line-of-duty deaths are less frequent—about 1.5 on average per year.

Fridley has already mourned the death of one off-duty public safety department member this year. in April included . (Allard also died in a motorcycle crash.)

Look for updates here about how Pankonin died. A Plymouth Police Department spokesperson said in an email to the editor of Plymouth Patch at about noon Wednesday that the department would provide details of the incident in which Pankonin died "soon."

Update (10:27 a.m. Wednesday): "It's a sad day for Fridley. I feel very bad," said Fridley Mayor Scott Lund about the off-duty death of Fridley Police Officer Barry Pankonin in an motorcycle crash Tuesday near his Plymouth, MN home.

"I really respected him," Lund said. "He was our first pawn detective. His weekly status reports were entertaining and good reports."

Lund said he didn't know Pankonin well but that Pankonin was a "well-respected" member of the Fridley Police Department.

Lund said he planned to attend a debriefing about Pankonin's death scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Fridley Police Department. "We'll see what might be appropriate" as official acts of memorial on the part of the city, he said, such as calling for flags to fly at half-mast.

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The mayor said he had offered the police department "anything" in terms of support or assistance from city government, and planned to attend Pankonin's funeral. (Arrangements are pending.)

"I want to say my condolences to his police department family as well as his personal-life family," Lund said.

The mayor noted that it's the second death from an off-duty motorcycle accident among Fridley public safety personnel in less than six months. in Fridley.

Update (9:57 a.m. Wednesday): Fridley Police Officer Barry Pankonin, who died in an off-duty motorcycle crash near his home in Plymouth Tuesday, was "a genuinely nice guy," according to Fridley Police Lt. Mike Monsurd.

"Anybody who had any interaction with him came away with a smile," Monsrud said, adding that Pankonin also approached his duties with a smile.

Pankonin joined the Fridley Police Department about 12 and a half years ago, starting on Jan. 18, 2000. For three years he served as a detective, including serving as Fridley's first pawn detective, working with pawn shops. "He broke the ground in that area," Monsrud said.

Pankonin also worked in a police capacity at the 2008 Republican National Convention hosted in St. Paul, Monsrud said. 

Monsrud said that over his own 23 years with the force, Pankonin is the first to die either off-duty or on-duty while serving as a current officer of the Fridley Police Department.

There are "certain protocols" for funerals of law enforcement officers who die on-duty or off-duty, according to law-enforcement traditions, Monsrud said. Details of the funeral arrangements are pending.

Original post (8:57 a.m. Wednesday): Fridley Police Officer Barry Pankonin died Tuesday in a motorcycle accident, according to the Fridley Police Department:

The Fridley Police Department regrets to inform you we lost Officer Barry Pankonin to an off-duty motorcycle accident. 

The accident occurred today, August 21st, at approximately 3:30 p.m. near his home in Plymouth. No other vehicles or persons were involved in the accident.

Officer Pankonin served as an Officer and Detective during his 12 ½ years on the Fridley Police Force and was a Veteran of the US Army National Guard.

The Fridley Police Department would like to thank the Plymouth Police and Fire Departments, North Ambulance and staff at North Memorial Hospital for their courageous efforts in trying to save our brother.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Pankonin was pictured in a recent Star Tribune article about cuts to city services.

The accident comes less than five months since while he rode his motorcycle in Fridley.

Did you know Officer Pankonin? Leave a comment below or at the Fridley Patch Facebook page.

Sara Brown Connelly August 22, 2012 at 03:10 PM
I went to school with Barry, he graduated a year ahead of me. He was always such a great guy. I am so sorry to see this story and my sympathies go out to his family.
Jason August 22, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Barry, You will be sorely missed around the Police Department. I will miss your friendship and room filling, knee slapping laugh. Cards
Adrienne Oxley August 22, 2012 at 06:27 PM
You will be missed Barry! He served 3 years as the Fridley pawn officer when I was the coach I considered him a friend and a wonderful cop! He loved his job! Such a loss.... Such a sad day!
Lora Bettendorf August 22, 2012 at 06:35 PM
I grew up w Barry. He was always smiling and sweet. I m also a cousin of his. I would love to hear mote stories about his job, sounds very interesting. I m sure he was dedicated and effective at anything he did. My prayers are w u Judy and Wayne, Cristy, Brad, Carrie and all who knew and loved him as we did....Lora Nickel
BoB's Produce August 22, 2012 at 07:55 PM
We are going to miss your smile. You lit up our whole store every time you walked in. We looked forward to every time that you would come in for lunch. You will be missed a great deal around here. -The girls from BoB's Produce Ranch
mark malecek August 22, 2012 at 10:45 PM
We have worked with Barry's parents in the cattle feeding business in southwest Minnesota. When you hear the saying - the apple does'nt fall to far from the tree, that so describes what we have read here about Barry. May you enjoy eternity with our God. Mark and Roxy Malecek.
D August 22, 2012 at 11:03 PM
We had the honor to know Barry when he was a little kid he was always so easy going. He will be sadly missed by his family and all that knew him.
Cassonya August 23, 2012 at 09:12 AM
Officer Barry was a kind,sweet and caring person I will miss his visit at our store Freedom Valu Center in Fridley May you Rest In Peace!
Dawn August 23, 2012 at 01:49 PM
May you Rest In Peace Officer Barry
Renee Wawa August 23, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I`m so sorry to Barry and his family.I pray his family,friend`s , colleague`s ,and the residents of Fridley that knew him well or in breif passing find the strength to get through, and tell stories of his time here to celebrate his life as it was, and the person he was ,you will be missed Barry rest in peace my friend..
Adrienne Oxley August 23, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Is the funeral open to the public there are quite a few people that would really like to attend on behalf of Barry. He was very loved and we would appreciate going. Thank you
Chris Steller (Editor) August 23, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Adrienne, yes I believe the funeral is open to the public but will confirm that. Fridley police sent funeral information to the media Thursday morning. Here are the details: http://patch.com/A-xltJ
Bob Terlisner August 25, 2012 at 05:11 AM
Barry Pankonin,Thank you for your service not only as a Soldier but a Police officer as well , Its obvious to protect and serve were not just words to you.Rest in peace knowing you made a difference Bob Terlisner.
Rachael Mattson September 03, 2012 at 03:47 AM
I am saddened to learn of this news. Thoughts and prayers to Officer Pankonin's family and friends. He was a great Officer who took time out of his busy schedule while on duty for a quick "Hello" and chat to any child who approached him. He will be missed. 08/21/12 was a sad day for many, I lost my Mom that day too. May they both Rest in Peace.


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