Cold Spring, MN — A man who was being questioned in the murder of a police officer in Cold Spring, Minnesota, hanged himself Wednesday, according to authorities.
Eric J. Thomes, who was labeled as a “person of interest” in the death of officer Thomas Decker, killed himself at his home near Cold Spring, the Minnesota Star Tribune reports. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said that Thomes ran into the building when he saw investigators approaching his home for another interview.
Thomes had been questioned about Officer Decker’s death several times since the November 29 slaying. Authorities said the shotgun used to kill Decker was found on property to which Thomes had access.
The BCA would not definitely declare Thomes the killer, and urged anyone with information to come forward as investigators continued looking into the case.
As we reported in November, Officer Decker was fatally shot when he went to check on a man’s welfare outside a bar in Cold Spring. Thirty-four-year-old Ryan Michael Larson’s family called police saying they believed he was suicidal. Police went to his home once but no one answered. They went back two hours later, and it was during this visit that Decker was shot.
Drew Evans, assistant superintendent of the BCA, said it was apparent that Decker had been ambushed.
Larson had been held on suspicion of second-degree murder following the shooting. A part-time bartender at Winners, the bar behind which Decker had been shot, Larson said he knew Thomes and that he had always been helpful to other patrons. He also said that he felt his reputation has been damaged because he was arrested and held for five days after the shooting.
“The other half of me says, inside, that people looked at me as if I got away with the murder,” Larson said. “As if my mug shot is on the first 35 pages of Google. How do I recover from that?”
Wade Setter, superintendent of the BCA, said, “BCA agents and Stearns County Sheriff’s Office investigators continue to work every lead in a methodical and thorough manner. We are determined to fully reconstruct the events that led to Officer Decker’s murder.”
Decker, a six-year veteran of the force, was the father of four children. About 3,200 people, many of whom also work in law enforcement, attended his funeral service.