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Recently retired St. Anthony police chief dies unexpectedly

Recently retired St. Anthony police chief dies unexpectedly
A longtime St. Anthony police officer who recently retired as police chief died unexpectedly this week, according to his former department.

Jon Mangseth, 55, joined the St. Anthony police department in 1995 and became chief in 2016. He retired in January.

The cause of Mangseth’s death hadn’t been announced as of Friday.

Mangseth was a mere month into his new job with the police department when St. Anthony Officer Jeronimo Yanez fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights on July 6, 2016.

People who knew Mangseth ask that he be remembered for the entirety of his legacy.

“Those who worked with Jon described him as a rock, calm and measured, sound in judgement, an incredible coach and mentor, trustworthy, and a true leader,” said Jeff Spiess, who worked with Mangseth his entire career and took over from him as St. Anthony police chief, on Friday. “He will be missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him.”

Spiess and St. Anthony Mayor Wendy Webster said their thoughts are with Mangseth’s family.

“Jon was an extraordinary leader who cared deeply for others,” Webster said. “I am deeply saddened by the news of his death.”

Castile’s killing

The shooting of Castile put the small suburb and its 23-member police department in the spotlight and later under a federal microscope that focused on policies and practices.

A jury acquitted Yanez and anger spilled over to St. Anthony City Hall, where demonstrators called on Mangseth, then-Mayor Jerry Faust and several council members to step down.

Mangseth left the police department on his terms, however. In October, he notified the city manager it was time for him to step aside and retire, which happened at the end of January. Mangseth declined a request by the Pioneer Press to discuss his career before he retired.

“I wish to quietly separate from the police department after 29+ years of service,” he said in a two-sentence email.

That wasn’t surprising to Spiess at the time.

“(Mangseth) never has been a guy who wanted the spotlight,” he said then. “He’d be happy behind the scenes directing folks, never wanting recognition of any type. But he was thrust into that position, and he knew that was his job. And he didn’t shy away from it.”

‘Humble leader’

In a winter St. Anthony newsletter that included a commemoration of Mangseth’s career, officers wrote memories of working with him, including his time on an East Metro SWAT team when he was a sergeant. Mangseth was “primary breacher” of doors, a job that usually goes to “a bulkier and stronger guy on the team.”

During a training, Mangseth “gave a hard whack with the ram and the door barely budged,” an officer wrote. “Another solid hit only slightly nudged the door. He knew he had only a few more seconds to get the door open before entry became too risky and we would have to abort. He also knew the whole team was watching. Ol’ Jon summoned some of that Iron Ranger strength and with the next two drives he not only pushed the whole door down and into the room, but ripped out most of the door frame.”

The officer continued, “The biggest take-away from that training day: If Jon Mangseth has to knock on your door, you’re better off just opening the door before he does.”

Another officer wrote he’d attended courses with Mangseth and “frequently thought Jon could have been teaching these classes and would likely have done a better job than many of the instructors.”

New Brighton Public Safety Director Tony Paetznick recalled Friday that he and Mangseth both became chiefs in summer of 2016.

“I had a much easier transition; he obviously came into office during the time of Philando Castile,” Paetznick said.

After a request from St. Anthony officials, the U.S. Department of Justice announced late in 2016 they’d conduct a “collaborative reform” review of the police department. The city has said that work led to “significant policy changes,” including body-worn cameras for officers.

“(Mangseth) was doing good things in St. Anthony that we benefitted from in New Brighton,” Paetznick said, adding that their departments participated jointly in training about procedural justice, and fair and impartial policing.

Paetznick said he always viewed Mangseth “as a very steady and calm leader, really a humble guy.”

“He never wanted to be in the limelight and he exited the profession pretty quietly at the beginning of the year, so I never really got to say goodbye to him,” Paetznick said.

Nick Ferraro contributed to this report.

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