Mystery of officer's murder hovers over Cold Spring

9:07 AM, Dec 11, 2012   |    comments
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Downtown Cold Spring

COLD SPRING, Minn. - The murder of Cold Spring police officer Tom Decker remained unsolved Monday night, 11 days after he was shot to death in the parking lot of a bar.

Virtually no new information has been disclosed to the public in the week since the original suspect, Ryan Larson, was released for lack of evidence. That had led to much speculation in this city of 4,000 located 75 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, over who killed Officer Decker and why it happened.

"There's not a lot of facts and figures out there, so you have a tendency to just kind of be a detective and try to figure out yourself what happened," Curt Sauer, a lifelong resident and owner of the Side Bar & Grill, told KARE.

"You don't sleep well until you know this person has been caught and apprehended, because it could happen again and we want to make sure it doesn't."

Decker, a 31-year-old officer and father of four small children, was murdered in the parking lot of a Winners Sports Bar on the night of Nov. 29. Ryan Larson lived above Winners and worked there part time.

According to initial reports, Larson's family called police because they feared he was suicidal. The Dept. of Public Safety told reporters that Officer Decker went to check on Larson, but was "ambushed" as he got out his squad car.

But the absence of a detailed timeline or an official account of the sequence of events has led residents to debate many theories of the crime. That speculation has only intensified in the week since Larson was set free.

Sauer said a popular scenario is that Officer Decker was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and possibly stumbled into a crime totally unrelated to the phone call that led him to the parking lot of Winner's Sports Bar.

"Because nothing makes sense," Sauer explained.

"I mean the whole scenario just doesn't make sense of how something like this could happen in our town, and so everyone makes up their own little scenario of how they think it went down."

Sauer said he feels for what Cold Spring Police Chief Phil Jones and his surviving officers are going through, grieving the loss of Decker while trying to solve the crime.

Immediately after Ryan's arrest police asked the public's help finding a .20-gauge shotgun, which may have been the murder weapon. The local police department is being assisted by the Stearns County Sheriff's Office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, or BCA.

Decker's brother Eddie told KARE on Monday that family is also anxiously awaiting more information about what led to the shooting, and who would be capable of such a crime.

"There are just too many unknowns out there, and the investigators aren't at liberty to share what they do know with anyone right now, including our family," Decker said.

"My theory is just as good as anyone else's, but there's just not enough information to go on for anyone to make sense of it."

He said that, in a way, he hopes Ryan Larson is innocent because of the impact on Larson's family were he to be held responsible for such a horrible crime.

"We're just all left to wonder."

Monday night brought another sign that life was beginning to return to normal in Cold Spring. The local Lions Club held its annual Christmas party in Winners Sports Bar.

Sauer said it's also been hard on the city's collective psyche to draw attention for another tragedy that made national news. The town was rocked in September of 2003 when a Roccori High School student shot and killed two classmates.

"We all know that Cold Spring is a great place to raise a family, and the area had always been known more for positive things."

The town is headquarters to Cold Spring Granite, which is one of the largest manufacturers of natural stone in the world. The company began with one local quarry in 1880 and now has scores of plants and quarries throughout the United States.

Cold Spring Brewery traces its lineage to the Gluek Brewing Company, founded in the city in the 1850's. It now produces a variety of beers and ready-to-drink cocktails and energy drinks.

(Copyright 2012 KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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