An officer with a gun stops a vehicle from proceeding toward downtown Cold Spring around midnight Friday at a gas station on the corner of Red River Ave. and Minnesota Hwy. 23/St. Cloud Times Eric Stromgren
COLD SPRING - The Cold Spring Police Chief has identified the officer shot and killed late Thursday as Tom Decker.
Chief Phil Jones struggled to retain his composure as he described the six-year department veteran as "our department jokester. Everyone who met him liked him."
Jones says Decker was the department's firearms and use-of-force instructor. He was with another officer responding to reports of a suicidal man. His chief says Decker was married with four young children.
"We're gonna miss him," Jones said, fighting back tears. "The community and all of law enforcement will miss Tom Decker."
Decker's mother Rosella says Tom grew up as one of eight children on a dairy farm south of Cold Spring. She says he surprised them when he announced he wanted to become a police officer.
"He wanted to help people," Rosella Decker told privateofficer.com, explaining her son's interest in law enforcement. "It was just something he told us about when he graduated high school."
Rosella Decker said she would either see her son in person or talk to him on the phone nearly every day.
"He called just a few hours before he was killed," she told privateofficer.com. "He said, 'I'll stop over a little later tonight. Oh, I've gotta go.' "
That was last time she would hear his voice.
Decker's younger brother describes him as 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.
He understandably tells the Associated Press that the family is still in shock over Friday's events.
The Rev. Cletus Connors of St. Boniface Catholic Church in Cold Spring has known Decker and his family for years.
"He was a nice young person. Always sincere and the type of guy who always wanted to do what was right. He would give everybody the benefit of the doubt," Connor said.
Decker had been a police officer for Cold Spring and Richmond since 2006. He is Rocori High School graduate.
"I don't know anyone who would command more respect in the town," Connors said.
The officer's father is John Decker, a farmer in St. Nicholas, Connors said.
Late Friday morning Governor Mark Dayton released a statement on Decker's tragic death. It reads:
"Cold Springs 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 Springs 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."
Decker previously served as a police officer in Isle, Watkins and Kimball according to the Cold Spring Police Department website. When he came to to take a position in Cold Spring Decker told his chief it was his "dream job."
Funeral arrangements for Officer Decker are pending.
If you are interested in helping the family of Officer Tom Decker, click here.
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