The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 3, 2012

Family: Slain officer liked to "protect people"

SARTELL — What 8-year-old Kelly Decker remembers about her dad — more than playing Nintendo Wii together, more than the treehouse he was building for Kelly and his other three children — was how he loved to look out for people.

Kelly's dad is Cold Spring-Richmond Police Officer Tom Decker, 31, who was killed late Thursday in what police say was an ambush near Winner's Bar in Cold Spring.

Tom Decker left behind lots of grieving family members, including four children: Kelly, Jade Decker, 7, Justin Decker, 6, and Devon Decker, 5. Their mother and caretaker is Becky Decker of Sartell, Tom Decker's former wife, the St. Cloud Times reported (http://on.sctimes.com/VgixT8).

Becky Decker speaks well of Tom, calling him a good father and widely respected community member.

The fact that police say Tom died while checking on someone's welfare — the suspect in the shooting, Ryan Larson, who remains in Stearns County Jail on suspicion of second-degree murder — doesn't surprise his family.

"He just liked to protect people," Kelly said. "All I can say is I want him back."

All of them are coping with Tom's death and remembering him in their own ways.

Justin, who Becky says takes after his father and wanted to be a cop just like him, didn't show his grief during an interview Saturday.

Jade is struggling to imagine Christmas without her father. Mounds of presents surround the family's Christmas tree, but Jade told Becky the only present she wants is to have her daddy back.

Becky's nightmare started not long after midnight Friday, when she answered the door and found Cold Spring-Richmond Police Chief Phil Jones on her doorstep, eyes trained on her doormat.

Jones' appearance and demeanor told the story before he even spoke, she said.

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