A Stearns County Sheriff's deputy stands at a perimeter at the corner of Main Street and 3rd Avenue in Cold Spring early Friday morning. Crime scene tape crosses Main Street between 3rd Avenue and 2nd Avenue/St. Clouds Times Eric Stromgren
ST. CLOUD, Minn. - The man arrested in connection with the shooting death of Cold Spring officer Tom Decker told the St. Cloud Times in a jailhouse interview that authorities have the wrong man.
"Basically, they have no evidence whatsoever that points in my direction," Ryan Larson said during a phone call to the Times from the Stearns County Jail.
During the 10-minute interview, Larson gave his account of activities on the day of the shooting from 8:30 a.m. to 8:17 p.m., when he said he went to sleep. He said his time on Thursday was filled with school, homework and visiting friends.
On Thursday night, before Decker was killed, Larson's family members reportedly told police they were concerned for Larson's well-being and asked officers to check on him.
"I did send a couple text messages to my parents letting them know that tomorrow (Friday) was a big day," Larson said.
Larson said the messages were meant to indicate that he'd be taking a new direction in school, not that he was going to harm himself. Larson is a student at St. Cloud Technical & Community College.
Decker and another officer were not immediately able to make contact with Larson when they were dispatched to check on him. They returned about an hour and 45 minutes later, and it was then that Decker was ambushed and shot twice in the parking lot at Winner's Bar, according to investigators.
Larson lives in an apartment above the bar.
Larson insists he was sleeping at the time of the shooting and that authorities have arrested the wrong person.
"The next inkling I had that anything was going on out there was when search teams were coming down my hallway," Larson said.
Larson said he matched some elements of the description of the suspect and had weapons in his apartment, but he didn't shoot Decker. He also said he doesn't have an attorney because he can't afford one.
"Basically, they have no evidence whatsoever that points in my direction," Larson said.
Larson added: "They have no gun, they have no fingerprints, they have nothing."
Larson said he'd met Decker a handful of times while working as a bartender at Winner's, calling Decker a "great guy." He also spoke highly of the Cold Spring-Richmond Police Department, saying they were "made up with the greatest group of guys I've ever met in my life."
Larson worked at Winner's Sports Bar & Grill in Sartell. Jeff Scoles Jr., owner of Winner's Sports Bar & Grill in Sartell and Cold Spring, said he trusts that Larson is innocent.
"I know he didn't do it, I'm positive he wouldn't do it," Scoles said. "He ain't that type of person."
Scoles said Larson is a fair man and a good worker.
"He doesn't like people doing wrong, he was a good bartender. Some people didn't like him because he wouldn't let them get by with things."
In 2009, Larson pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after Larson's ex-girlfriend reported that he intimidated her and grabbed her during an argument, according to police reports. He served one day in jail, another three months of his sentence was stayed and a no-contact order was issued.
Stearns County sheriff's records show the department has had 19 contacts with Larson since 2002.
Regardless of past transgressions, Larson said he's not out to hurt anyone.
"They're looking at the wrong guy," Larson said. " ... I'm always there to help people, not to harm people or hurt people."
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