Paul Butterfield, a former member of Tennessee’s track and field and cross country teams, was being remembered on Tuesday as “a quiet leader” after he was fatally shot Monday night in the line of duty as a Michigan State Patrol trooper. He was 43.
A member of the Michigan State Patrol since 1999 and a veteran of the United States Army, Butterfield was shot during a traffic stop in Sherman Township, Mich., 80 miles north of Grand Rapids.
He died during emergency surgery at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, Mich.
Television station WOOD in Grand Rapids reported on its website Tuesday that “police said the suspects, who were identified by the male suspect’s grandmother as Eric and Sarah Knysz, were riding in red truck, gunfire was exchanged, and Butterfield was shot in the head. The suspects then drove from the scene.”
The Knyszes, according to WOOD, were taken into custody after a gunfight with MSP troopers at a gas station about 20 minutes later. Eric Knysz was shot in the leg and transported to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder called the shooting a “senseless incident” and ordered flags to be flown at half-staff until after Butterfield’s funeral.
Butterfield was the 51st Michigan State Police trooper killed in the line of duty since the organization was founded in 1917.
“He was a quiet leader,” said former UT teammate Tony Cosey, who said that hearing the news of Butterfield’s death was “surreal.”
“Paul was loyal and would have done anything for the team,” said Cosey. “He would stand by you in the trenches. Todd Williams and I were telling Paul Butterfield stories this weekend.”
A native of Saginaw, Mich., where he attended Bridgeport High School, Butterfield graduated in the 118th Trooper Recruit School.
He was the son of a retired police officer and spent most of his time at a post in Manistee before he was transferred to Hart in Oceana County, 30 miles south of the shooting site.
“We’ve been friends since 1987,” said Williams, a former teammate. “He was a hard worker and goal-oriented. I remember all the good times we had. He was a great guy to be around. There are a lot of great memories from our time at Tennessee.”
The 1988 Michigan state champion in cross country, Butterfield came to Tennessee and competed in the 5K and 10K events in track and field (1990-92) and in cross country (1989-92). He was a member of the 1990 Tennessee SEC cross-country championship team. Cosey described him as a “pure distance runner.” He was known to teammates and coaches alike as “Butter.”
“I recruited, signed, and coached him,” said former Tennessee track and field coach Doug Brown. “He never got in trouble and graduated. It didn’t surprise me he was doing well as a state trooper.”
Butterfield’s funeral services are tentatively set for Saturday at 1 p.m., at Manistee High School, 525 12th St., Manistee, Mich., 49660. The family will receive friends from 10 a.m. until just before the service.