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Monday, July 14, 2008

Respect for a good man.

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Blogger Bob said...

Officer hailed for '71 hostage rescue dies
Quick action earned him on-the-spot promotion and the adulation due a hero
By John Brewer
Article Last Updated: 07/14/2008 12:28:26 AM CDT

On a cold January afternoon in 1971, LeRoy Thielen went from a hard-working, under-the-radar cop to public hero.

The burly St. Paul Police Department detective used "cobra-quick action," a Pioneer Press article said, to disarm a mentally unstable young man outside St. Paul-Ramsey Hospital (now Regions) in a standoff caught on film by local media.

"He never told stories about it," son Mark Thielen said Sunday evening at a visitation preceding his father's funeral. "He said, 'That's just what we do.' "

Thielen, 80, died Thursday of complications from a burst appendix at his home in White Bear Lake.

Though he didn't talk much about it, the officer earned universal praise for his actions Jan. 28, 1971, when 17-year-old Greg Seifert, a patient in the psychiatric ward of the hospital, somehow smuggled in a gun and shot Ramsey County Sheriff's Deputy Roger Rosengren to death.

The youth then took 25-year-old intern Stephen Pliska as a hostage.

Thielen, a St. Paul detective at the time, showed up with his partner, Russ Bovee.

The police plan, according to Bovee, was to let Seifert drive away from the hospital with the hostage. Officers would then take him down, he said.

But outside the building, officers were flanked by reporters and gawkers drawn by a live radio broadcast of the event.

A sniper was dug into a snow bank near the entrance to the hospital — orders were to incapacitate the young man as he left the grounds — but the cold, snowy conditions froze the gun and it wouldn't fire, Bovee said.

Worried about what would happen if the gunman left the building, Thielen and Bovee came up with a plan.

Thielen tucked his service revolver into his belt at his back, donned a doctor's coat and went to talk to Seifert. Bovee followed suit.

"I didn't say who I was, and he didn't ask," Thielen said in an interview later.

He told the young man that doctors help people and that he wouldn't hurt him.

He and Bovee talked to the young man for hours and eventually led him — and the hostage — down an elevator into the hospital lobby.

Thielen told the teen he would drive him wherever he wanted to go.

"It was now or never," Thielen said at the time. "If he'd gotten out of there, it would have just caused more trouble."

The detective saw his chance as the boy turned to walk out of the lobby.

"He came out the door like a shot," said retired St. Paul Pioneer Press photographer Spence Hollstadt, who photographed the rescue. "I didn't see him and then there he was, and I started shooting (pictures)."

Thielen got his hand around the cylinder of Seifert's gun, preventing it from firing.

Bovee swept in and Pliska turned on his captor. The three wrestled the boy to the ground.

The heroic rescue drew a lot of attention — something Thielen, a World War II veteran, wasn't familiar with.

"In those days, they didn't make big things out of it," Bovee said of the rescue.

On the spot, St. Paul Mayor Charlie McCarty promoted Thielen from detective to lieutenant. Bovee received a commendation.

"That was probably the first battlefield promotion for the St. Paul police," Bovee said.

Later, a billboard from the city congratulated the officers on their heroism: "Some call him pig!" it read, with a picture of an officer giving a child CPR. "St. Paul salutes officers Thielen and Bovee."

Thielen retired in 1986, after 32 years on the force.

The officer spent much of his retirement at his lake home in Webster, Wis., with his wife, Ramona, and caught as much of the Twins and Vikings as he could on television and radio.

Thielen had a stroke in the mid-1990s and was dependent on his wife for daily care. The attack left him paralyzed on his right side — that's why he didn't know his appendix burst until he became sick while staying at his White Bear Lake home, his son said.

"He felt like he died when he had the stroke," Mark Thielen said. "He had been very outgoing, an avid fisherman and hunter."

And a good cop.

Bovee, who retired in 1990, said his longtime partner was one of a kind.

"They just don't make them like that anymore," Bovee said.

Thielen is survived by Ramona, his wife of 55 years; sons Michael, Mark, Jim and Charles; daughters Jeanie Mooney and Judy Neale; 13 grandchildren; five stepgrandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

A funeral service is set for 11 a.m. today at Sacred Heart's Catholic Church in Webster, Wis., where Thielen also will be buried.

John Brewer can be reached at 651-228-2093.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous click here for images of the arrest said...

I posted this link


10:25 AM  

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