27 years after his death, Dakota County highway named for fallen deputy

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A stretch of highway about 10 miles southeast of Hastings and near the Vermillion River will bear the name of a deputy who was killed in the line of duty over 27 years ago.

A segment of County Road 68, also known as 200th Street East, in Ravenna Township will be renamed as Deputy Luther Klug Memorial Highway after a Tuesday vote by the Dakota County Board of Commissioners.

Deputy Luther Klug (Courtesy of the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office)

Klug was killed in the line of duty in the summer of 1996 when he was struck by a drunken driver while assisting a traffic stop on County Road 68, said Dakota County Sheriff Joe Leko during Tuesday’s board meeting.

The driver, a U.S. Army veteran and then-recent college student, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.18, more than twice today’s legal limit, two hours after the crash. He was convicted of criminal vehicular homicide and sentenced to four years in prison.

Although 27 years have passed since Klug’s death, “not a day goes by that he is not remembered,” Leko said. The county and the sheriff’s department worked together over the past four years to bring Klug’s memorial highway to fruition, he said.

“As sheriff, I feel it is my responsibility to make sure he is not forgotten,” Leko said, noting that most of Klug’s former coworkers and partners have since retired.

The call for a memorial highway was spurred by the death of another Dakota County law enforcement officer, Scott Patrick of the Mendota Heights Police Department.

Patrick was shot to death in 2014 during a traffic stop. In 2018, the city honored him and his family with a dedicated memorial and roadway in Mendota Heights. Another memorial is in the works at the spot where he was killed just over the city’s border in West St. Paul.

Leko said this dedication ignited a spark that led Dakota County Commissioner Joe Atkins, who represents West St. Paul and South St. Paul, to ask if other fallen officers should be considered for the same honor and Klug’s name was quickly brought up.

‘Long overdue’

Klug, who was 36 when he died, left behind his wife and 4-year-old son Jordan, Leko said. After his passing, Klug’s partners and friends informally adopted the boy. “He was looked over and cared for very protectively,” Leko said.

Leko, who joined the department a year after Klug’s death, said although he never got the chance to meet him, he feels like he knew him through the “Luther stories” that were told in the office and now working alongside Klug’s son.

Jordan Klug was presented with a shadow box including photos, a patch and memorabilia of his father, Luther Klug, on the 25th anniversary of his death in 2021. (Courtesy of the Dakota County Sheriff Department)

In 2014, Jordan Klug followed in his father’s footsteps and became a deputy.

Now a sergeant, Jordan Klug addressed the board on Tuesday. “It would be an honor to have this dedicated to his memory,” he said of his father.

Dakota County Commissioner Mike Slavik, who represents Hastings and Ravenna Township, said he was a senior in high school the year Klug was killed and recalled how it rattled the Hastings community.

“I remember how much that event had an impact on our class,” Slavik said. “This was another reminder of how precious life is,” Slavik said, calling the memorial highway “long overdue.”

Deputy Luther Klug Memorial Highway will run between Minnesota 316 and the east county line near the Mississippi River, according to county documents. An official date for the unveiling has yet to be set, but Leko said it could be as early as Nov. 10.

“This is the least we can do to honor your father,” Slavik said.

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