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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.
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:
- The Star Tribune clarified that no pedestrians were involved—nor were any drugs, according to police. Pankonin was originally from Sanborn, MN, the newspaper said, and is survived by his partner, Scott Stevenson, his parents and three siblings: a brother and two sisters.
- The St. Paul Pioneer Press quoted Fridley Police Lt. Mike Monsrud: "It's very sad. Barry was one of the good guys, which isn't something you can say about all cops because some don't have a good attitude. ... But Barry was always upbeat and happy, even in his interactions with some of the more hardened criminals on the street."
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.
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.
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.