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Running in memory: Rosemount police officer runs in uniform to support troops

Rosemount police officer Cassie Witt took first place in her age category Saturday as she ran in police uniform in the Cops for Kopp fundraiser for the upcoming Ben Kopp Memorial Ride. Kara Hildreth / contributor

Ready to honor the sacrifice of Ben Kopp, one Rosemount police officer decided to set a new course to honor the lives of many veterans.

Rosemount police officer Cassie Witt set up a GoFundMe account called Cops for Kopp. Witt ran four miles last Saturday with the community in the Leprechaun Days Run for Gold.

"I have always been inspired by all the veterans' service and I thought it would be cool and the perfect timing with the Race for the Gold," Witt said.

RELATED: Bridge to honor fallen soldier Ben Kopp

She trained a few weeks to run the four-mile race wearing her full gear and police uniform. All her training paid off. She placed first Saturday in her age category in the Run for the Gold

"I decided to run in my uniform because I thought it would be challenging and it would draw attention and it would be a challenge to raise the money," Witt said.

She hopes young people saw it as an officer running for a good cause.

As an athlete for played soccer in her youth, Witt, 28, has always loved running and has been closely involved with fitness her entire life.

Prior to the race, her husband Tyler, who also works as a police officer, and her whole family showed up to support her Cops for Kopp fundraiser. Witt's good friend ran alongside her in the 4-mile race.

"We are excited for Cassie and she really wants to participate and raise money for a good cause," said her mother Pam Sisson, a Rosemount resident for 29 years.

Sisson said her daughter did not inherit running skills from her since she is more of a fast walker, although her father is a runner.

"We always tell her we are her back-up to whatever she puts her mind and heart to," Sisson said.

Inspired by Ben Kopp's life and story of bravery and sacrifice, Witt said he is a local hero in Rosemount and across the country. Even though she did not know Kopp personally, she is familiar with his story and always wanted to help raise funds.

Kopp, who was a Rosemount High School graduate and U.S. Army Ranger corporal, died July 18, 2009, after being shot down by a sniper eight days earlier while serving as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. His life and service has been honored in many ways, including a new biography and the first bridge in Minnesota named after Kopp.

"I want to honor Ben and our veterans and our troops because they are out there protecting us, and Ben died protecting our freedoms and that cannot be taken for granted; it needs to be honored and recognized and shared with our community," Witt said. "Ben is a local hero who grew up here and I think this is a great way to honor him in that way and a great way to support our troops with the non-profit."

As a patrol officer who joined the local department eight months ago, Witt would like to work to do her part to improve overall police relations given the challenges officers have faced in recent years across the country.

"I think now with there being a negative tone that comes with law enforcement, I think it is important for us as police officers to show how we care and that we are invested in our community, and this is a way I can reach out and demonstrate that to the community," she said.

At a glance

Rosemount police officer Cassie Witt ran four miles in her Cops for Kopp fundraiser Saturday, July 22, alongside the community in the Race for the Gold during Rosemount's Leprechaun Days celebration. Witt placed first in her age category wearing running shoes but fully dressed in her police uniform. She will continue to raise funds for the Ben Kopp Memorial Ride at U.S. Army Ranger Corporal Ben Kopp, a Rosemount High graduate, died July 18, 2009 after being shot down by a sniper eight days earlier while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.