Police Cmdr. Brad Cragoe has worked all but one Minnesota State Fair since 1996. He couldn’t say what particular thing brings him back every year, but there’s something nice about shaking up the routine and seeing some familiar uniformed faces.

“There’s a core group of officers that have been working there together forever, that come together after a year and everybody knows what they’re doing,” Cragoe said. “You kind of just fall back into a routine.”

Two Prior Lake officers, Cragoe and Prior Lake Sgt. Darcy White, worked at the fair that ended earlier this month. White’s been going for 13 years.

Cragoe said normally he dedicates himself fully to the event, using vacation time so he doesn’t have to try and juggle his home duties. This year that didn’t quite work out, so he worked several hours in Prior Lake before putting in another fair shift.

And this year’s fair ended on a different note than normal. Cragoe was nearing the end of another year when he was directed to warn guests about an oncoming storm Monday. Cragoe and his partner were about half a block from the main gate when chaos broke out on the other side.

In the fair’s final moments, St. Paul police responded to reports of three men who were shot outside the main gate and a woman critically injured when she was hit by a car. The Star Tribune reported that several onlookers mobbed the vehicle that struck the woman, panicking the driver, who then threatened to shoot people.

Brett Messer, who was at the fair during a visit from Maine with his wife, said several teen boys ran past them as the couple walked back to their car that evening; one said to the others, “Let me see it.” Gunshots sounded shortly after.

The two also saw around a dozen people surrounding a vehicle and seeming to try to get inside, Messer said. Police cars came from all directions, and then the rain started.

Cragoe said police for about an hour and a half redirected fairgoers and families from a crime scene waiting on the other side gate. He said people tired and drenched by a late-night downpour were frustrated and demanding answers. All Cragoe and his partner could do was redirect angry Minnesotans to safe exits.

Dan Holtmeyer contributed to this report.

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