by Dennis Dalman
Two chilling 911 calls have been released by the Cold Spring Police Department that reveal the dread and panic in the wake of the murder of Cold Spring-Richmond Police Officer Thomas Decker on Nov. 29.
One of the callers mentions a loud black van that apparently left the scene right after Decker had collapsed, dead, from being hit twice with gunfire from an assailant. Police are seeking help from the public from anyone who may know of the black van and who owns it or was driving it that night. Police and other investigators are also seeking the whereabouts of a 22-gauge shotgun they believe was used to kill Decker.
The initial suspect, arrested at the scene, was a man who lived in an apartment above Winner’s Bar near where Decker was shot. That man was released from jail several days after the incident as there was no evidence to keep him incarcerated. The man, 34-year-old Ryan Michael Larson, has proclaimed his innocence repeatedly to the media, including in an appearance on WCCO-TV in which he said he was sleeping at the time of the killing.
Investigators, including many from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, have been working long hours to find the person or persons who killed Decker, who had driven to the Winner’s Bar area to check on a man (Larson) because of a telephone tip that he may be feeling suicidal.
In the first 911 call, the unidentified male caller states, “Ah, we need an ambulance and police officers at Winner’s Sports Bar, um, 200 Main St. There is a . . . ”
The time of the call was 10:47 p.m. The rest of the transcript of 911 (call number one) is as follows:
Dispatcher: OK. Where are you exactly? Where is he?
Caller: Um. Ma’am? Ah, Cold Spring, Minnesota.
Dispatcher: Yep, I know where Winner’s Bar is. Is he inside the bar?
Caller: No, he’s out back.
Dispatcher: Behind the bar?
Caller: Um, in the back, yes sir.
Dispatcher: Did you see what happened?
Caller: Um, no, someone said there was a noisy black van, um.
Dispatcher: A noisy black van?
Caller: Um, I will . . . Come here real quick. Oh, it went up in town on Main Street.
Dispatcher: Oh, don’t go by it, him, what happened, what was the black van?
Caller: It was a noisy black van, (inaudible) off, and it, like . . . (inaudible) it was a (inaudible). It was a black van. We just saw it.
Dispatcher: A noisy black van?
Dispatcher: Like, you mean loud exhaust? Like loud exhaust?
Caller: Yes. Yes, sir.
Dispatcher: And which, which way did that van go?
Caller: Um, OK, um, into town, Main Street, um towards the lights.
Dispather: Towards the lights? And you think the suspect’s in that van?
Caller: Um, you want to talk to . . .
(At this point, the caller hands the phone to a woman)
Woman: Did you want to talk to me?
Dispatcher: Yes, this is, ah, the police department. Where did that van go? Which way?
Woman: It went out of the parking lot at Winner’s and it went west.
Dispatcher: West on?
Woman: On Main Street past Winner’s. That’s all I know.
Dispatcher: And you think the suspect or that van was involved?
Woman: I do not know, all I, all I came up to my car. And um, I heard this noisy car drive away. And then I see a man, a man laying there.
Dispatcher: OK, what is your name, ma’am?
Woman: My name is . . .
Dispatcher: And a phone number you can be reached at? Cell phone?
Woman: Ah, this is not my phone, um . . .
Dispatcher: I know, but do you have a cell phone you can be reached at?
Woman: Yes, it’s . . .
Dispatcher: OK, stay in the bar. We’ve got a lot of people on the way down there, OK?
Woman: OK, one’s here already, thank you.
Call number 2 is as follows:
Dispatcher: 911. What is the address of your emergency?
Man: Ah, Winner’s Sports Bar, Cold Spring, Minnesota.
Dispatcher: Yep, we’ve got everybody going.
Man: Officer down.
Dispatcher: We’ve got everybody going.
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.