Memorialized as a “brother, uncle and friend to many,” Cold Spring-Richmond police officer Thomas Decker was buried with full police honors Wednesday after a funeral at St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville.
Decker, 31, is the father of four children: Kelly, 8; Jade, 7; Justin, 6; and Devon, 5.
Decker was murdered at 11 p.m. Nov. 29 in Cold Spring while attempting to check on the well-being of a man who was reported to be suicidal. While getting out of his squad car in a parking lot behind Winner’s bar, Decker was struck by at least one bullet fired from a second-story window above the bar. The alleged shooter lived in an apartment above the bar.
Decker was pronounced dead at the scene.
The alleged shooter, Ryan Michael Larson, 34, was apprehended after a search in the heart of the city. He remains in Stearns County Jail and is expected to be charged with at least one count of murder. Larson had been a student at St. Cloud Technical College.
Officer Decker’s tragic death shook the Cold Spring community and sent shock waves throughout Minnesota. Flags were flown at half-mast, and Gov. Mark Dayton issued a statement: “On behalf of the people of Minnesota,” Dayton said, “I extend my deepest sympathies to his family and to the Cold Spring Police Department for their tragic loss of an outstanding officer, father and friend.”
Decker’s death brought back bad memories of two other deaths in Cold Spring – the shooting deaths of two students by a fellow student in 2003 at Rocori High School in Cold Spring. Decker graduated from that school in 2000. He had grown up on a dairy farm near St. Nicholas.
Decker’s death also was a sad reminder of another police officer death – that of Brian Klinefelter, who was shot to death on Jan. 29, 1996 while making a roadside stop on Hwy. 27 in St. Joseph. His shooter was later shot to death by a police officer in St. Cloud when the man tried to kidnap people from a house. His two companions in the car served 13 years in prison. They had previously that night robbed a liquor store in Albany.
Last year, 72 police officers were shot to death in the United States. Decker’s death was the first police officer to be slain by gunfire in 2012 in Minnesota. From 1996, when Klinefelter was killed, there have been 10 Minnesota law-enforcement officers shot to death in the line of duty.
A visitation was held Dec. 4 for Decker at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Cold Spring. After the St. John’s Abbey service, he was buried in the St. Nicholas Catholic Cemetery in the town where he was raised. Thousands of people, including law-enforcement officers from throughout the state, attended Decker’s funeral and the procession to the St. Nicholas Cemetery.
Decker was born in St. Cloud to John and Rosella Decker. He studied law enforcement, including at the Alexandria Vocational College law-enforcement program, then served as a police officer in Isle, Kimball and – for the last six years – for the Cold Spring-Richmond Police Department. He loved his police work, and his colleagues said he went always above and beyond the call of duty, eager to help anybody in a crisis. He liked to collect police badges and even designed some of them himself.
His hobbies were fishing, hunting, traveling and playing games.
When he was younger, he taught religion classes in St. Nicholas. During his police service years, he was a firearms instructor. As an officer, he received five letters of appreciation and a special commendation award for heroism.
Survivors include his wife, Alicia; his four children; his parents, siblings Eddie, Larry, Terry, Billy, Shelly and Joey. He was preceded in death by a sister, Susie; and four grandparents.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.