APPLETON — Community members and fellow emergency responders paid their respects on Monday, May 20 to the Appleton firefighter killed in the line of duty May 15. Mitchell Lundgaard was to be laid to rest on Monday evening.
In a silent tribute through the city's streets, the men and women of the Appleton Fire Department rode with their fallen brother's casket.
"It's so hard, so hard," said Shandi Kohel, who came with her husband to express their sympathies -- and offered to make custom apparel in Lundgaard's honor.
"With all of our profits going toward the family or whatever the fire department sees fit," said Justin Kohel.
Firefighter Lundgaard was shot and killed on May 15 while responding to a medical emergency at Appleton's downtown transit center. Officials said after the patient received care, he and police on the scene got into a shootout near the library.
"This is part of my community. I walk by the transit where it happened. I go to the library with my children. I walk by this fire station a lot times on my lunch hour," said Erin Riesenweber, an Appleton resident.
The incident felt personal for Riesenweber, who became emotional as the procession passed by.
"We're here for them. This type of thing doesn't happen in this community, so it's really shocking. Really sad," Riesenweber said.
Lundgaard, a 14-year veteran, was posthumously promoted to driver/engineer. He left behind not only his fellow firefighters, but his wife and three young children.
"It's going to be very difficult for his wife and boys moving forward," said Todd Vorel, an Appleton resident. "The beautiful thing for her is she's going to be able to tell about the legacy of their dad to them over the years."
It was a life taken too soon -- but a legacy that would live on throughout the city.
Lundgaard was the first Appleton firefighter in 86 years to die in the line of duty.