Lake City Tragedy Compounded When Residents Discover Gunman was a Veteran

By | December 22, 2011

The tragedy in Lake City and Rochester Minnesota has been compounded today as residents learned that the 25-year-old gun man who critically wounded a cop was an honorably discharged veteran.

Thirty-two year old Lake City officer Shawn Schneider continued to cling to life Wednesday as family, friends and supporters gathered around him and prayed for healing. Meanwhile local media outlets reported that the gunman, Alan Sylte Jr., had been discharged honorably from the Army Engineers. He had recently served in Iraq with the Wisconsin Army National Guard.

The shooting happened Monday around 8:30 a.m. when police were notified of a domestic dispute at a residence. Sylte, apparently upset that his 17-year old girlfriend had dumped him, confronted her in a house armed with a gun. When officers arrived, the girl fled the house in the direction of the squad car. Several shots were fired, at least one striking the officer in the head. Sylte retreated back into the house and barricaded himself inside. His body was discovered hours later, the victim of an apparent self inflicted gunshot wound.

A crowd of about 200 gathered at Edith Graham Courtyard at the St. Mary’s Hospital Tuesday night for a candle light vigil for Schneider, who is recovering in an ICU upstairs. At the request of the family, the Christmas hymn “Silent Night” was sung. Rochester Emergency Services Chaplain Curtis Martin lead a brief invocation, calling on “the Great Physician” Jesus Christ to work a miracle, “if it is His will”. Lake City police chief Gary Majchrzak praised Schneider calling him a “hard working officer”.

“If anyone can make it through this ordeal, he can,” the chief said.

A crowd of 500 gathered for another vigil today at a park in Lake City. The chief led a contingent of officers to a gazebo in the park. Officer Bill Weiss, a long time friend of mine and Schneider’s partner led his daughter by the hand in that procession. I was not able to attend that vigil. There is a beautiful photo of him and his fellow officers and his daughter on the Rochester Post Bulletin website. My brother and I, along with his family attended the vigil at St. Mary’s where I was pleased to see officers and EMS personnel come from far and wide to attend. Minneapolis and St. Paul jurisdictions sent leather jacketed patrolmen to the gathering, and the State Patrol was represented in their Smoky Bear hats and maroon uniforms. My brother’s kids were well behaved and respectfully silent. We cupped our candles carefully in our hands so that the wind would not blow them out prematurely.

It’s the right thing to do to honor and pray for Schneider and his family in this way. But what about the other man? Shouldn’t we pray for him and his family as well? I doubt any gathering for him will be as well attended.

I see a disturbing trend developing among some of our veterans who unfortunately turn to violence after coming home, unable to contain the rage inside them. We lost a soldier after my deployment after he went to a party armed with a gun. The nice people whose party he crashed took his gun away and shot him dead with it. Another soldier was killed on R&R in Qatar after he dared a fellow soldier to stab him in the chest with a knife. The drunken friend did and the soldier bled out in a bar room latrine far from home.

At work around the water cooler I heard Sylte described as “a coward” and I heard phrases like “senseless tragedy” and the like. But, was it senseless? We don’t live in a vacuum and worldviews have consequences. We’ve all but banished God from the public square and then we have the audacity to say, “Where was God? Why couldn’t he stop this?”

We live in the world we deserve. We are to blame for the way it is. Not God. God shows us the way out, through his son, Jesus Christ. We have to push back against the secularists and the atheists and demand that religion and morality stays in the public lexicon where they belong.

I don’t think Sylte was a coward. I think he was a troubled man who needed help, and he didn’t find it. Not from family or friends, not even himself. I know he bears the responsibility for what happened. I don’t know what he had seen in his military career that would make him do this; and I don’t pretend to know how it may have affected him. I just know that a good man turned bad; throwing off honor for an under-age girl and now he is gone off to meet his maker. Meanwhile, another good man struggles to survive with a traumatic brain injury caused by a single bullet. His family suffers with him.

I must admit, I find myself pretty angry after my own 15-month deployment in Iraq. I expressed my feelings to an Army Chaplain who gave good, sound advice.

“This momentary pain is only temporary, Jeremy,” the Chaplain told me. “The Lord Jesus sees into forever. He sees what kind of people we are and who we could potentially become. Don’t do something that will disappoint Him.”

Don’t disappoint Jesus! Absolutely, good advice!

So I’m trying to climb the mountain to become my higher self, with God’s help. Meanwhile, people around me are on bobsleds racing each other to be the first to the bottom. A lot of good people are showing their true nature by showing support for the Schneider family. Good for them. We should all be so lucky to have such friends. I wonder who will lay a wreath at the grave of the other fellow?

Pray for the Schneider family and show your support for him as Lake City residents have, by leaving your porch lights on.

A fund has been set up to support Shawn’s family with any immediate unforeseen expenses in the wake of this tragedy. Contributions can be sent to:

Shawn Schneider Family Support Fund:
c/o: Kathy Moyer
Alliance Bank
105 E. Lyon Ave.
Lake City, MN 55041
(651)345-3311

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