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Arrest made in ambush slaying of Minnesota police officer


This news story was published on November 30, 2012.
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By Paul Walsh and Larry Oakes, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –

COLD SPRING, Minn. — A Cold Spring police officer was fatally shot late Thursday when he and his partner were answering a call about a suicidal person at an apartment near a Main Street bar, Stearns County authorities said Friday morning.

Authorities identified the alleged shooter as Ryan Michael Larson, 34, of Cold Spring.

Tom Decker, 31, was the officer who was killed, said authorities, who described his death as coming during an ambush.

Decker, a father of four, was wearing a protective vest.

“From our preliminary investigation, it is apparent he was ambushed,” said Drew Evans, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension assistant superintendent.

Authorities said they received calls around 9 p.m. from Larson’s family expressing concern that he might be suicidal. Officers went to his residence along Main St., near Winner’s bar, and tried to make contact, but they failed to do so.

Decker returned about 45 minutes later with his partner. They were confronted by Larson, who shot and killed Decker, according to Sheriff John Sanner. Authorities would not say where the bullets struck Decker.

Cold Spring resident Dean Demars said he was in Winner’s playing cards with friends when police officers rushed in.

“They said you have to leave right now, and when you leave put your hands in the air and walk out single file.”

Demars said that once outside, they walked past Decker’s body on the ground.

“I didn’t see it, but the woman next to me did, and she said he was shot in the face,” said Demars.

He said police directed the bar patrons well away from the scene and took everyone’s identification.

Demars, 49, a sales rep for Catholic United Financial services, said the shooting, which he didn’t hear over the noise of the bar, dredged up bad memories of the Ricori High School shooting, which his daughter witnessed.

“I didn’t sleep last night,” Demars said. “It’s gonna be a long day.”

As of late Friday morning, authorities have yet to say whether the gun used to shoot Decker had been recovered. The activities of a dozen or more law enforcement officers suggested that the weapon was still missing. The officers were atop roofs downtown, checking vehicle wheel wells and searching nearby fields.

Jones said another officer in the department had had contact with Larson previously, but he believed Decker had not encountered Larson before Thursday night. Jones said he didn’t think Larson had been living in Cold Spring for long.

Other than a handful of traffic violations, Larson’s criminal history in Minnesota includes a misdemeanor conviction in Stearns County in 2009 for disorderly conduct. He received a 90-day jail sentence, which was stayed.

Larson is enrolled for a second school year at St. Cloud Technical and Community College, studying machine tool technology, an administration official said.

At a press conference Friday morning, authorities would not provide details about how Larson was located and arrested, saying that multiple agencies were still conducting interviews and processing the crime scene.

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