Tears flow as community pays respects to firefighter Mitchell Lundgaard

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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - A husband, a father, a brother, and a hero. A heartbroken community has come out in large numbers to honor fallen Appleton firefighter Mitchell Lundgaard.

Map of processional route.

A solemn procession of fire engines and law enforcement vehicles escorted Lundgaard to Appleton Alliance Church, 2693 Grand Chute Blvd, for a visitation and memorial service in his honor. Mourners led a casket draped in an American flag into the church.

CLICK HERE to watch coverage of the afternoon processional.

The visitation was initially open to the public, but the church quickly reached a capacity crowd. The city of Appleton had to ask members of the public to stop coming to the church. "There will not be time for everyone to get through," the city said in a tweet, and asked people to line the evening procession route instead.

Earlier in the day, countless people lined the procession route to the church, carrying American flags and shedding tears for a man who died in the line of service to their community..

Lundgaard, who was posthumously promoted to driver/engineer, was a 14-year veteran of the Appleton Fire Department. He was shot and killed May 15 while responding to a medical call at Valley Transit Center.

"Today, we bring our brother home! The Lundgaard family and AFD appreciate the love and support from all," reads a post on the Appleton Fire Department Facebook page.

Lundgaard leaves behind a wife and three young boys.

The processional started at Brettschneider-Trettin-Nickel Funeral Chapel and Crematory at 606 N. Oneida Street. The route took the processional by Fire Station #1, at 700 N Drew St., where Mitchell Lundgaard was assigned.

Lundgaard was carried by Engine 9321 to Appleton Alliance Church. Lundgaard's three young boys were in the engine. A visitation goes until 5:30 p.m. Again, the church reached capacity and it is no longer open to the public.

Appleton Police Department public information officer Meghan Cash read a statement from the family. "When Mitch became a firefighter he swore to serve his community. Helping people and he died selflessly doing that so a part of our community was tragically taken from us last Wednesday when we lost Mitchell."

Cash continued, reading the statement tearfully, "Since we learned that Mitch was taken from us, the staff at the Appleton Fire Department has been with Mitch and his family in making sure they are taken care of. We have seen in the past few days how many lives were impacted by Mitch's service by our community. Knowing that Mitch will not be forgotten, brings us a comfort during this difficult time."

Members of the public felt compelled to show their reverence for Mitchell Lundgaard.

"My dad was a fireman, my son-in-law is a fireman, and it can happen to anybody. So you want to be here to pay our respects," says Kathy Hanson, an Appleton resident.

Hanson had tissues in hand as she watched the procession. "It was touching, very touching to think he gave his life in doing something that he loves to do but is dedicated to helping others."

"We wanted to just remember the firefighter's life and his service to our community," said Appleton resident Todd Vorel. "And we're just grateful and thankful for it. And we wanted to come here and say a prayer for his wife and children as it's going to be very difficult in the weeks ahead."

"I work at Lawrence, and this station is the station that serves our campus," said Appleton resident Charles Schroeder. "He's a member of my church. I didn't know him at church, but he's part of our church family and I thought it was important to show respect for him and all of the other first responders."

"Just going down the procession and seeing a number of people holding flags, standing at attention and saluting, some of them visibly upset tears in their eyes, it just tells you a lot," Mayor Tim Hanna said.

After the service is complete, a procession will travel back to the funeral chapel. This is expected to start at approximately 7:15 p.m. The public is again encouraged to line the boulevards to honor a fallen hero. More than 200 emergency vehicles will be part of this processional.

The Appleton Fire Department has set up a GoFundMe to raise money for Mitchell Lundgaard's family. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

Mitchell Lundgaard was shot May 15 after responding to a medical call at Valley Transit Center. The 47-year-old man who was treated pulled a gun and shots were exchanged between him and Appleton police (see related story).

Lundgaard was hit by gunfire. He was transported to ThedaCare Regional Medical Center - Appleton. "The efforts by the ThedaCare Emergency Room staff were nothing less than extraordinary. Tragically, he died from his injuries Wednesday evening," Appleton Fire Chief Jeremy Hansen said.

Appleton Police Officer Paul Christensen was hit by gunfire and treated at a local hospital and released.

Brittany L. Schowalter, a 30-year-old bystander, was also struck by gunfire. She survived and was hospitalized in stable condition.

The shooter died at the scene.

Two Appleton police officers--Paul Christensen and Sgt. Christopher Biese-- fired at least one round each, police say. They've been placed on administrative assignment pending the outcome of the investigation, which is routine.

Mitchell Lundgaard