COLD SPRING -- Police have identified the Cold Spring police officer who was shot and killed overnight during a welfare check.

Police say 31-year-old Officer Tom Decker was shot and killed around 11 Thursday night near Winner's Bar on Main Street in Cold Spring as Decker and his partner conducted a welfare check at a nearby apartment.

Police say Officer Decker was ambushed, shot and died at the scene.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension says within an hour, Stearns County SWAT team investigators arrested 34-year-old Ryan Michael Larson of Cold Spring.

Larson is jailed in the Stearns County Jail in St. Cloud on murder charges.

Suspect Had Prior Legal Dealings

Larson is a student at the St. Cloud Technical and Community College.  Spokeswoman

Shooting suspect Ryan Larson (Photo: Stearns County Jail)
Shooting suspect Ryan Larson (Photo: Stearns County Jail)

Heidi Everett says he's a second year student in the Machine Tool Technology program.

Larson had drawn police attention before in the community of about 4,000, mostly for traffic-related offenses but once in an abuse case.

In 2009, he reached a plea agreement to settle a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge for engaging in behavior that could "arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others." As part of the plea deal, he served a day in jail and had another three months stayed, but he agreed to undergo domestic abuse counseling. A no-contact order was issued. Court files indicated he violated his probation in 2010.

Civil court records show Larson was sued more than once over outstanding debt and was evicted from a rental property in 2008 for failing to pay his rent.

At a news conference at Cold Spring City Hall this morning, police were not able to provide many more details to the fatal shooting. They say many of those details are part of the ongoing investigation.

Tom Decker -- "A Chief's Dream"

Police Chief Phil Jones did talk about Officer Tom Decker, calling him a "chief's dream."

One of just nine officers in the department -- Jones says Decker had received six letters of appreciation and commendation during his six-and-a-half-years on the force.

In September of 2004, Officer Decker started with the Kimball Police Department and also served as a School Resource Officer for the Kimball School District.

Officer Tom Decker, Cold Spring, Minnesota
Officer Tom Decker (Photo: Minnesota BCA)

In March of 2006, Officer Decker began serving the cities of Cold Spring and Richmond.

Officer Decker is a native of the Cold Spring area and is a ROCORI graduate.

He was married and has four small children.

An emotional Jones told reporters, "We're going to miss him."

A younger brother of Decker says his brother was bright and animated, someone who loved to travel and be outdoors.

Twenty-seven-year-old Joe Decker of Cold Spring says Tom Decker was shy as a youngster but "the life of the party" as an adult.

Joe Decker said Friday his brother enjoyed fishing and going pheasant hunting. He also says his family assumed Tom Decker would be a doctor or pharmacist because he had so much medical knowledge, and they were surprised when he decided to become a police officer.

Officer Decker's body has been taken to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office for autopsy.

Governor's Reaction

Meanwhile, Governor Mark Dayton has issued a statement in the murder of Officer Decker.  Dayton says:

"Cold Spring Police Officer Tom Decker was senselessly murdered last night, while acting in the line of duty.  On behalf of the people of Minnesota, 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.  Officer Decker died, while protecting his fellow citizens.  For his heroism, we will be forever grateful."

Ruben Athmann of Cold Spring was in Winner's Bar in downtown Cold Spring last (Thursday) night when the shooting happened.

The last Stearns County officer killed in the line of duty was St. Joseph officer Brian Klinefelter, who was shot in 1996 while attempting to arrest three robbery suspects.

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