Cold Spring, MN — Officer Tom Decker, a six-year-veteran of the Cold Spring Police Department, was fatally shot late Thursday after he went to check on a man’s welfare outside a bar in the town.
Investigators said Friday several guns were found, and the man who was reported to be suicidal was taken into custody.
“He was a policeman trying to help someone. He was called there to help and he went there and was shot doing his job,” said Donna Knaus, a manager at Cold Spring Bakery. “It’s horrible.”
Seventy-two-year-old Florence Benson of Rockville, Michigan, said, “It’s a terrible, terrible thing in a community this size. Just about everybody knows everybody — especially police officers.”
The man who was taken into custody, 34-year-old Ryan Michael Larson, was being questioned Friday on suspicion of second-degree murder. The county attorney’s office was considering pressing criminal charges.
Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner said his department got a phone call around 9 pm Thursday, reportedly from Larson’s family, saying he might be suicidal. Police went to his home once but no one answered. They returned almost two hours later.
It was during the second visit that Officer Decker was shot. He was wearing a bulletproof vest at the time.
“It’s apparent to us the officer was ambushed at the scene,” said Drew Evans, assistant superintendent of the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Investigators wouldn’t elaborate on why they felt the shooting was an ambush. They only said the shooting was still being investigated.
A banner made at a local school was filled with colorful handprints cut out of construction and read: “We thank all of you for your service to our community.”
Cold Spring Mayor Doug Schmitz was moved to tears by the banner. “It’s tough,” he said.
“A lot of people woke up this morning in shock, and we’re still in shock,” he added. “We’re a strong community. We just bind together here. It’s going to be a tough few days and weeks to come, but we’ll make it.”
Tom Decker leaves behind his wife and four children from a previous marriage — two daughters, 7 and 8, and two sons, 5 and 6.
Gov. Mark Dayton extended his condolences to Decker’s family.
“On behalf of the people of Minnesota, I extend my deepest sympathies to his family and to the Cold Springs Police Department for their tragic loss of an outstanding officer, father and friend,” Dayton said.