Retired SE Minn. police officer who died by suicide 'had a deep care and love for his community'
Former Zumbrota police officer Gary Schroeder Jr. worked tirelessly to bring more awareness and help to those suffering from PTSD
Editor's note: If you or a loved one is in crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.
ZUMBROTA, Minn. — Visitation and funeral services will be held next week following the death of retired Zumbrota police officer Gary Schroeder Jr.
"He was a very well-known person in this community," Zumbrota Police Chief Patrick Callahan told the Post Bulletin. "He was a social butterfly, he loved talking."
Schroeder, 46, served on the force for 18 years before medically retiring at the end of 2020. He also served on the Zumbrota Fire Department for many years, and previously worked for the Grand Meadow and Alden police departments.
"Gary fought a hard and courageous battle against PTSD attained in the line of duty," the department wrote in a statement. "Gary died of suicide on April 17, 2023."
Visitation will be Sunday, April 23, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church in Zumbrota, and funeral services will be Monday, April 24, at 11 a.m. at the church, with visitation one hour prior.
Schroeder would still stop in at the department after his retirement to chat with fellow officers, something that will be missed, Callahan said.
"He really had a deep care and love for his community. He was really empathetic as a person and as an officer. It didn't matter who he was dealing with," Callahan said. "He might have worn that armor like tank armor, but all you gotta do is get the right round in the right spot and it's compromised as far as what can affect you."
Schroeder's death is likely to be considered a line-of-duty death because it stems from his medical retirement due to PTSD, Callahan said.
"So that's how we're looking at it," he said. "That's how my peers in this field look at it."
Schroeder and his wife were both avid hunters, often taking trips out west to hunt elk, but even during some of those trips, he would help other people by taking veterans who also suffered from PTSD through the group Invisible Wounds.
"He was very open about PTSD and mental health and very proactive on getting help," Callahan said. "Unfortunately for him, he suffered greatly."
At home, he always seemed to be tinkering with automotive-related things while also tending to his horses, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens at his property just outside of town, where he welcomed different challenges.
"He helped me when I had to erect a small pole shed," Callahan said. "He came out day one and he provided the insight we needed to get the poles in right. He wasn't an expert, but he'd done it and I valued that. I told him, 'I don't think I could have gotten started without your knowledge on this.' "
Following Schroeder's retirement, he pushed for the department to partner with a mental health provider to help fellow officers who are suffering from PTSD, a partnership that the department plans to utilize to help process his death, Callahan said.
"The reality is, is that emotional health and mental health awareness are at the forefront of law enforcement as a whole," Callahan said. "It's not just local, it's not just the state, it's not just the nation; it's worldwide, and that attention to this has grown exponentially in the last few years."
The Zumbrota Police Department encourages anyone who is experiencing distress to reach out to the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing or texting to 988 or reaching out online at 988lifeline.org .