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Police officer remembered as hero; Bemidji, Beltrami County officers attend funeral

The casket of Cold Spring Police Officer Tom Decker proceeds in a horse-drawn carriage for the final ride of the funeral procession followed by a riderless horse to St. Nicholas Catholic Cemetery Wednesday in St. Nicholas, Minn. Jim Mone | Associated Press

COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. (AP) – A Cold Spring police officer who was killed in the line of duty last week was remembered Wednesday as a hero, doting husband and father, and a man who loved serving and protecting the public.

“You are my hero. You are our hero,” Officer Tom Decker’s brother, Eddie Decker, said during a funeral service at St. John’s Abbey and University Church in Collegeville.

Authorities said Decker was shot when went to check on a man believed to be suicidal. No one has been charged, but authorities continue to investigate.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said an estimated 3,200 people attended the service at the church, including about 2,300 law enforcement officers from around the U.S. and Canada. They saluted his hearse as it arrived at the church Wednesday morning.

Bemidji Police Chief Mike Mastin said two officers from his department were in Cold Spring Wednesday to attend the funeral. He said the law enforcement community at large has been affected by the loss.

“When an officer of any jurisdiction gets hurt or gets killed, it’s like losing a family member. It’s that tight,” Mastin said. “It also opens people’s eyes to their own mortality.”

At least two Beltrami County Sheriff’s Deputies were also in attendance, Sheriff Phil Hodapp said.

“Any time like this happens, whether we know the officer or not, everybody is saddened by it and is affected by it,” Hodapp said.  

Gov. Mark Dayton also attended the service.

As Decker’s family entered, each person clutched a blue-tinged white rose. Decker’s wife, Alicia, was escorted by two Cold Spring officers. The service began when his casket was rolled to the front and sprinkled with holy water.

During the service, Decker was remembered as a husband who took his wife to dinner every Friday and bought her flowers once a month. He was also remembered as a father who worked at night so he could play with his four children during the day.

The Rev. Cletus Connors, pastor at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Cold Spring, talked about the darkness left behind by the death of Decker, whom he called “Tommy.”

“We are trying to make sense of an aspect of life that can never truly be understood,” Connors said. He added that Decker was “a gift that helped spread God’s love everywhere in his short life. ... We are all better for having known him.”

Connors said Decker would want those left behind to be “strong, determined, unafraid for the future.”

The Rev. Thomas Olson closed the service by thanking the officers in attendance.

“We pray very much for all of you men and women in law enforcement – for the work that you do and in gratitude for how you live your lives. A greater love than this, Jesus said, no one had than the love to lay down his life for one’s friends. Thank you for what you do.”

Two processions wound through the community after the service, as Decker’s casket was brought to St. Nicholas Catholic Cemetery in Luxemburg for burial.

Thousands lined up along Highway 2 to honor Decker as his hearse drove by. Hundreds of students stood in front of Rocori High School, Decker’s alma mater. Many held American flags and watched as a long line of police cars went by, with their lights flashing.

A temporary electronic sign along the highway said: “A hero remembered never dies.”

Pioneer reporter John Hageman contributed to this report.

Laurie Swenson
Laurie Swenson is a reporter/copy editor for the Bemidji Pioneer. She has been with the Pioneer since 2004.