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In a year that marked two somber milestone anniversaries, hundreds of St. Paul police officers and civilians alike gathered Wednesday to honor their fallen in the city's 60th annual memorial service.

Family, friends and city officials gathered at Mears Park in downtown St. Paul for the 60th annual memorial, which originated after John F. Kennedy designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day. Gov. Tim Walz ordered that flags fly at half-staff Wednesday to recognize the event. Attendees young and old sat in the park's square with a pamphlet listing the slain officers' names. A band played "The Star Spangled Banner" through birdsong and burbling streams. Wreaths with white, yellow, pink and red flowers circled the park's central stage where police Cmdr. Chris Kasal led the ceremony.

Thirty years ago, Kasal stood with thousands of others for the funeral procession of officers Ron Ryan Jr. and Tim Jones, who along with K-9 Laser were killed on Aug. 26, 1994. Ryan was shot after he responded to a report of someone sleeping in a car in a church parking lot. Jones and Laser were shot and killed later that same day by the same man as they searched for Ryan's killer. This year also marks 50 years since officer John Larson was killed in a traffic accident while responding to an emergency call.

Kasal urged those in attendance to remember officers killed in the line of duty, including the first responders killed in Burnsville this February.

"These heroes and their surviving families are also a part of our St. Paul families. They gave their lives in much the same way so many of our St. Paul heroes did: while trying to help, protect, and defend others, and keep their city safe," Kasal said. "There are no words I can say to take away the pain you felt and still feel. ... Please know [that] we love you and care deeply for you. You are our families and always will be."

Those family members stood as St. Paul Police Chief Axel Henry read the names of the department's 32 officers killed in the line of duty, responding "absent" as Henry announced their loved ones' name. With each name, another officer rang a bell that echoed against brick and stone buildings downtown.

Mayor Melvin Carter said the bell's toll is among the year's harshest sounds.

"Each time it rings, it rings into our hearts. It rings into our mind. It rings into our spirt. And that's important because that's how we keep our 32 officers' legacies alive," Carter said. "[That's] allowing ourselves to experience the mourning, to experience the grief, to experience the deep sense of loss that we feel, afresh. Every time that bell jars our souls."

Recent years have proven especially dangerous for police. A Star Tribune analysis showed that assaults against police increased 160% from a decade ago. The February killings in Burnsville marked one of the deadliest law enforcement encounters in recent Minnesota history, and police shootings have shaken rural and urban communities this year.

Despite such dangers, speakers for Wednesday's memorial applauded the fallen officers' heroism and their sacrifice. Before the ceremony closed with a 21-gun salute and "Amazing Grace" played through bagpipes, Henry thanked slain officers' families and pledged to continue supporting them.

"Today is not just these sacrifices that were made on our behalf, but also the enduring legacy these sacrifices truly are," Henry said, explaining that commemorating the 32 slain officers will help continue their legacy. "Their courage is now our courage. We will never allow their legacy to fade. We will never allow their name, their sacrifices, their honor, to be forgotten. May there never be a 33rd."

An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Cmdr. Chris Kasal's last name.